2016 – “WOW!”. 2017 – “HELLO!”

 

How and where do I even start – if there’s one thing that is clear to me today, it would be that, I have almost forgotten how to write! This year, I havent been writing much, be it professionally or personally.

So 2016 – to sum it up, WOW it has been an eventful year! Looking back a year ago, here are the things that I’ve set up to achieve:

  • Grow new lifestyle media site with Discover JB into a sustainable media platform (50% Done)
  • Get 55 enterprise paying customers for Parrot (2% done)
  • Grow Vulcan Post minimally 20% across the board (with 60 – 70% less resources) (DONE AND OUTPERFORMED)
  • Grow personal savings! (DONE)
  • Travel to more placessss (Japan set for April!) (DONE)
  • Seriously Jacky, grow some balls and get attached already. (DONE)

So here are some of the things that have happened earlier this year:

1. Discover SG grew and its most notable differentiating factor is our ambassador programme. Probably my first foray into (micro) influencer marketing. The team sent our ambassadors to a bunch of cool events like Ultra Singapore, Its The Ship, Flight Simulator, Singapore Fashion Week, Soulscape Festival, Zouk Out, Halloweens Horror Nights and a ton of other media invites. Our pageviews could have been better so that’s something that Im going to fix in the new year, and am happy with the YouTube video show that we did with Germaine.

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2. Vulcan Post on the other hand, had a good year. Despite facing some hiccups in the earlier year due to manpower issue, overall our pageviews grew 40% this year, more than the 20% i originally hoped for. Our revenue also grew 400% this year (mostly thanks to our Malaysia team and also ongoing support from our long time clients). We also did videos for Vulcan Post and our Facebook videos generated over 3.5M Facebook video views.

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While the numbers are great, we are now at the crossroad of a very challenging media landscape where fake news are dominating, views are getting harder and harder to come by, and most importantly, the vision and what your brand stands for.

We did not do our Vulcan Post awards and Publisher Summit this year, which we will be doing in the first part of the new year.

But what we did achieve, was winning Bronze for The Best Website Award (Vulcan Post) and also Gold for The Most Innovative Technology (Parrot) at Marketing Interactive’s Spark Awards 2016.

The award marked a mini full circle for Vulcan Post – on the 18th of August 2013, I published the first article on Vulcan Post, and 3 years later, we won an industry award. So 18th of August is a very important date to me.

August 18.

A photo posted by Jacky Yap (@jackyyapp) on

3. This year I also got attached to someone, and while it didnt last long, I learnt more about myself, and hopefully I will be able to give all of me in the next relationship.

4. In the later part of the year, I also signed up for a personal development course, which is still ongoing – and it is probably one of the most valuable thing I did for myself. Because of the course, I see myself more clearly, I developed a better relationship with my mum and my two sisters, and of course, creating better friendships with people around me. 🙂

5. This year has been fun in terms of travelling too! Traveled to Japan (for the first time!), Bali, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines (for the first time). Also partied at Ultra Singapore, Zouk Out and It’s The Ship!

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6. So what was bad? Probably nothing much except for the fact that I was betrayed by a very close friend. While i treated him as a business confidant, he went ahead and started a competitor media site with the information that I shared with him. After the episode, I told myself that, it is always the case of “every man for himself”.

So what’s for the new year?

  • Grow Vulcan Post 20% minimally across the board.
  • Grow Discover SG 50% minimally across the board
  • New market – Philippines
  • Learn how to swim
  • Get attached
  • Build a decent financial portfolio
  • Travel to new places (ITALY planned!)
  • Spend more quality time with mum and sisters

To Jacky on the 30th of December 2017, here’s a reminder:

“Love isnt love until it is given away.”, “Everything is going to be ok”

 

 

Goodbye 2015 And Hello 2016!

Cant believe the year is almost over, and cant believe for the whole year I’ve neglected this personal space of mine! Traffic to this site is almost non existence too – to think that at a time I still get a decent 8 – 10k monthly readers, but i guess that’s the tradeoff for running a media site!

2015 has been good, not fantastic and not too bad either, and as a tradition, I use this space to pen down my thoughts and set goals for the me in the following year.

For Vulcan Post, I’ve set out last year to at least double the valuation of the company this year, and making sure that we survive through our second year. I think we’ve done that. in 2015, we’ve at least doubled most of our metrics across the board: we’ve grown:

  • Total pageviews +120% yoy
  • Unique readers +103% yoy
  • Vulcan Awards total voters +197% yoy
  • Vulcan Awards total votes +187% yoy
  • Content marketing revenue +110% yoy

We also did 4 community meet ups, 2 each in Singapore and Malaysia, as well as organized our first ever Singapore Digital Publisher Summit which saw ~200 attendees (160+ paying delegates 30+ speakers / staffs / partners).

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Milestone unlocked for putting together a conference!

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VP Community Meetup

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The VP Team – Originals, Interns And Full Timers

We moved into a larger office at Tanjong Pagar along with our investor Gushcloud (but we claim no credits on the new office), and we also redesigned the website to be a lot sexier!

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One of the last few team lunch with Liang!

While all sounds good, 2016 will be even tougher as we are faced with even smaller resources for our insurmountable targets, and not forgetting the task to replicate our growth this year and bring it to the following year. Sometimes I feel proud of all these achievements because we’ve done all of these with just an average of 5 full timers, but at the same time it’s scary too.

This year was also the year Annie left us, moving on the achieve better career growth, and personally took a substantial hit on this.

For the new year, I have even bigger things I want to achieve for the company – a personal trait that hopefully does more good than harm to me. 🙂

At the same time, we have also been working on our new SaaS product Parrot. We sort of pivoted Pollen into Parrot, a content research tool that indexes publications in Singapore and sort articles by virality. It’s a problem that we are trying to solve for ourselves, knowing what is trending at any point so we can be part of the conversation. We have one last feature that we want to build before focusing on monetization, and the pressure for Parrot to work is through the roof.

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On the personal side, other than occasionally shuffling between KL, Kuching and Penang, travelled to Bangkok, Melbourne and Korea this year. Bangkok has been amazing as always – been to Songkran for the first time ever! Korea has been crazy as well  – went for a week and ended the trip with Ultra Korea, which was my first rave party! Earlier this month too, managed to drop by the much celebrated Zouk Out. Came to the understanding that rave parties are huge workout sessions only to be attended with friends. And am probably getting too old for these shenanigans.

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Songkran!

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Ultra Korea!

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Zouk Out Sg 2015

Other than that, also shifted house from Choa Chu Kang (finally!) to a new place in Redhill! 🙂 Learnt how to cook and also manage to save up a bit this year. Still single, but that’s probably gonna change in the very near future, hopefully!

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Chef Jacks!

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New hood at Redhill!

So what’s for the new year? Few things:

  • Grow new lifestyle media site with Discover JB into a sustainable media platform
  • Get 55 enterprise paying customers for Parrot
  • Grow Vulcan Post minimally 20% across the board (with 60 – 70% less resources)
  • Grow personal savings!
  • Travel to more placessss (Japan set for April!)
  • Seriously Jacky, grow some balls and get attached already. -.-

Here’s to a glorious 2016, and do remember to spend more quality time with your friends and family if you are reading this! 🙂

And to Jacky on the 30th of December 2016, remember what Binghan told you – when doors close, other windows open, so everything’s gonna be ok. 🙂

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Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

It’s been a while since I last pen down anything here. But as Singapore enters its 5th day of national mourning for the passing of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, also known as the founding father of Singapore, I thought it’s appropriate for me to write something down here as a future reminder of what I feel this whole week.

Where do I even start.

As a Malaysian in Singapore, I was fortunate enough to benefit from the education system in Singapore through NUS, privileged to be able to spend sometime in US and China too through NUS. Shortly after that, started Vulcan and working with a team to build what we think is valuable. It goes without saying that this wouldn’t be possible without Mr Lee Kuan Yew – the high standards of living, the safe streets late at night, the efficient transportation system, world class education system and business environment. It also goes without saying that we are able to build our dreams because of Lee Kuan Yew.

Also learnt a new phrase today thanks to Song Han’s photo caption: 人固有一死,或重於泰山,或輕於鴻毛。

The queue for the public to pay their last respect to LKY snakes as long as 8 – 10 hours, to the point that the crowd do not know where the queue starts:

Image Credit: Straits Times

Image Credit: Straits Times

His impact also extended to a global footprint:

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To my future self when you are reading this again, here’s to jog back your memories:

The main reason why LKY made such a huge impact and footprint is simple: he cared. Because he cared, he made the effort to make things happen. Because things happened, people felt safe. So long as he is around, things will be ok.

Same analogy as the saying: “how you make other people feel says a lot about you”.

Lessons from #LKY Source: https://vulcanpost.com/182751/8-lessons-lky/

  1. Care and things will fall in place.
  2. Sometimes you need to make unpopular decisions to reach your goal.
  3. Love your country, your family, and your other half.
  4. Speak with power.
    • “Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine. I’ve spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I’m in charge, nobody is going to knock it down.”

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew    CandleForLKYRIP Lee Kuan Yew.

 

Goodbye 2014 Hello 2015!

I love this time of the year. It’s because I get to reflect and plan for what I want to do for the coming year.

2014 has been fantastic too, just as 2013 was to me.

For 2014, here are some of the personal and career goals I’ve set:

  • Scale up publication [Done]
  • Go through a fund raiser [Done]
  • Spend more time with mum [Done]
  • Asset Growth [Done]

Vulcan Post has seen fantastic growth in 2014, every month we are reaching well over 300,000 people around in Southeast Asia. In September, we were one of the few selected media companies from Southeast Asia flown in for the Apple iPhone 6 event, a huge validation to our content strategy.

In October was one of our best months: we reached over 1,000,000 pageviews that month! This month too, we released our own Vulcan Post Readers Choice Awards, which wildly exceeded our expectation. We have also finish shooting 10 office tour video series for our Vulcan TV.

Really proud of Vulcan this year because we have been fronting some pretty innovative stuffs: our weekly columns, our readers’ choice awards, our annual video recap, our office tours series, among others. 🙂

Our team has grown too and super excited to be bringing in some of the most passionate folks onboard full time into the company. We also concluded the year with a bang: we raised a 6 figure investment round (upper bracket) from Gushcloud, an influencer marketing company. I think we are really blessed because there are a lot of people whom not only believe in what we are doing, but also support us along the way. Working with Gushcloud is a strategic arrangement, not only can they help us grow editorially + helping to drive more sales, we are able to deploy the products we are building into their blogger network. Just two weeks into concluding the deal with Gushcloud, we have deployed our plugin into Mustsharenews and Sethlui’s blog, one of Singapore’s most read food blog. We can’t wait to see more synergies with Gushcloud in the new year!

Personally too, this year is officially the year I travelled the most. I’ve travelled to Vietnam, Bangkok, Jakarta, and Europe, all for the first time. Also went home to Kuching more than I should due to my employment pass issue, but managed to spend more time with my mum. Organized another Startup Weekend this year, and also went to the Electric Run in April too! Oh and manage to appear on Singapore’s national TV (Channel News Asia) for a 5 mins interview!

If you ask me what regrets I have, I probably dont have much regrets this year. Still looking for the other half though, so there’s that.

2015 will probably be the most pivotal year of my life, and I cant wait to get started. I always tell this to people around me that companies usually die in second year. So 2015 it is critical for us to make sure that we grow Vulcan even more in terms of reach, brand equity and revenue – in number wise, at least double our company’s current valuation. And I’d have to shoulder that responsibility. I’ve planned out what we need to execute along with ways to do it, and if we manage to follow through with the plans, things will be good, just as Jack Ma said, 今天很残酷,明天更残酷,后天很美好!

On the personal side, will be learning how to play the keyboard, travelling more often, continue growing personal assets / investment categories, and hopefully, meet my other half.

Here’s to a glorious 2015!

Happy New Year folks! 🙂

Things I learnt running Vulcan Post

So for those who know, I have been running Vulcan Post for quite some time now, since August 2013. Here’s what we have achieved so far:

  • Over 1,500,000 people around the world has read Vulcan Post.
  • On average, we have 200,000 unique readers per month.
  • We are averaging 5 – 6 articles consistently per day.
  • We have grown to almost 30 writers, mostly contributors. We are planning our expansion to Malaysia now, and exploring new product offerings for our readers.
  • We have shot 5 episodes of Vulcan TV so far, on track to hit our planned 10 episodes by end of the year.

Really excited to share that we have managed and built all of this organically, in just 9 months.

Here’s a couple of things I’ve learnt:

Consistency

Consistency is underrated. It’s similar to being disciplined in things you do. For Vulcan Post, since I started it, I told myself and the team that no matter what, every single day we must keep our article quantity consistent. We are now averaging 5 – 6 articles per day, published every hour from 10.30am. We want to hit the ideal number of 8-10 articles.

Consistency means that readers can expect new content every time they come in. For example: if a reader is having lunch at 1pm, he can expect to read 3 new articles on Vulcan Post that day (10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm). This is very important in instilling reader’s loyalty and building return traffic. For Vulcan Post, 1 out of 4 of our readers are returning readers.

So how do we build consistency in the team? We schedule them in advance. What this means is that for all our articles tomorrow, we have all of them scheduled tonight, one day in advance. This ensures that we have our articles and content ready for publishing the next day. So everyday, we have time to look for new topic and write new articles without fighting against time or worry if we haven’t hit our quota of the day.

Of course, this takes a lot of discipline.

Content Partnership & Brand Equity

For Vulcan Post, we are excited to be working alongside some great partners such as Yahoo Singapore, Coconuts Singapore, Evernote, Facebook, The Smart Local, Twenty First Tech and many more. We are also fortunate that companies open their door for us to feature their office space and speak to their executives for Vulcan TV, our official video channel.

These partnerships are important because they attract other brands to come work together with us. As we help build up their brand equity through our distribution channel, they also build up our brand equity.

80 – 20 Rule

The 80 – 20 Rule holds true for us as well: 80 per cent of our traffic comes of 20 per cent of our content. We generally follow the 80 – 20 rule:

  • 80% of our stories are news and opinion pieces, 20% of our stories are buzzfeed-ish articles
  • 80% of our content follows the editorial strategy we set out for Vulcan Post, 20% of our content are fresh new content we experiment with
  • 80% of our traffic are generated by 20% of our writers
  • 80% of our content are produced in house, 20% of our content are from content partners and guest posts

The question then is, how do we identify the 20% of the things that matter (which brings in 80% of the results)?

Experimentation

I am a big fan of experimentation, and all writers have full flexibility to explore the topics and content they love. Want to do a movie review? Go ahead. Tech round up? Done that. Things you didnt know about a country? Works well. If it doesnt work, we kill it. That’s the only way we know what content may stick and what may not.

This goes in line with the 80 – 20 rule. Constant experimentation ensures that the chances of you discovering the 20% of the things that matter (which brings in 80% of the results) are significantly higher.

The same goes for writers. We are also fortunate to have a lot of people who wants to contribute on Vulcan Post. Over the past 2 weeks, we have about 7-10 people emailing us to see if they could join our team. We are keen to take them in, because again, that is the only way we discover great talents. (Of course, this causes a new set of problem, which i might share in another article).

Hardest to manage: Human

Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learnt and is learning is this: human is the hardest to manage. Different expectation, different opinions, group think.

Motivation

One of the most important about running Vulcan Network is to constantly motivate myself and be really disciplined. As i am the one setting the milestones and timeline for the whole company, everything can crumble if I am not disciplined enough to keep things running.

It has been quite a lonely journey so far, but there’s no turning back. I wont lie and say that there werent time that I doubt myself and what I am doing, or whether I am making the right decisions. There are definitely time where I wake up and wonder what am I doing. But of course, more importantly, I have to trust myself to be able to brush it off and just get back to work. 🙂

What’s next

Vulcan Network, started in September 2013, aspires to be a company managing a few business portfolios. Vulcan Post was never the end game. It’s not big enough.

Vulcan Post was started because I wanted to start a product company, but i didn’t know what it was yet. What i do know is this: for the company that I am trying to build, I would need a distribution channel for it. But that should not be an excuse for me to not do anything about it, hence Vulcan Post was started. Vulcan TV and a few other products came along after that.

Here’s the different business units under Vulcan Network:

  1. Vulcan Post: Our main distribution channel. This is where people discover us. We report on Internet Lifestyle news, and we are writing for the mass public, people who are curious about technology.
  2. Vulcan TV: Our video channel. This is where we highlight the great companies and culture behind popular Internet websites. So far we have featured Viddsee, TripAdvisor, Zalora, Facebook and Groupon. There are three segments: Interview with an executive about company and vision, Interview with an employee about office culture, and then an office tour. I am very bullish about Vulcan TV and video being a better medium for story telling, and definitely excited to push this further.
  3. Vulcan DigestOur official weekly newsletter. We have almost 2000 subscribers now using Vulcan Digest to keep updated with our news on Vulcan Post and Vulcan TV.
  4. Vulcan PrintOur e book division. It was a side project I did last year. We will be converting some of our best stories on Vulcan Post to e-books too from time to time.
  5. Vulcan ConsultancyOur consulting arm, which we are working alongside some great clients on website development, mobile app development, digital marketing and PR consultancy.
  6. Vulcan: The content recommendation engine we are working on. The Outbrain of Southeast Asia. This is what’s gonna determine where we will be at in the next 5 years. This is our trump card.

Cant wait to:

  • Increase our daily article numbers to 8 per day on Vulcan Post!
  • Finish shooting 10 – 12 videos for Vulcan TV this year!
  • Start working on our second ebook for Vulcan Print!
  • Reveal our key clients for Vulcan Consultancy!
  • Launch Vulcan and grow it!
  • Cant wait for our growth the next 9 months!

Is it too much? Some might argue so.

To me, it is very manageable: all 6 items are necessary, and they are interconnected with one another. They power each other. In fact, we are thinking of possibly including another Vulcan brand, but that might stretch our resources too thin. If you were to break down each item to its individual time resources needed, you would quickly realize that it is very manageable.

And I still have time to write this blog post too. 🙂

 

The only person you can rely on is yourself

Had the opportunity to work with some great people over the past few years. When I’ve decided to take the plunge to run my own things, had a coffee with Huy and he asked me, what was the biggest thing you’ve learnt over the past 6 months?

We haven’t caught up in months.

I told him, “the only person that I can trust and rely on is myself”.

That was 4 weeks back. 4 weeks later today, I have the exact same sentiments again.

At the end of the day, nobody would care as much as you do.

I think im a very fair person. I would let the person determine his or her deadline. And i’d adjust my plans accordingly. If he or she never meet it once, it is be understandable. Something might have popped up, I always tell myself.

But if it is for 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 times, sorry sir, you’ve lost the trust I have for you.