Category Archives: Featured

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 ‚Äď 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. ūüôā

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 Digest: Our 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 Print: Our 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 Consultancy: Our 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. ūüôā

 

Why I’m bullish about the content industry in Asia

There are quite a handful of people who told me that the market cap for media industry is fixed and it is too small a market to fit more than 2 or 3 tech media outlets.

“Your time is better spent tackling problems in bigger market”.

Apart from the fact that I have little experience in other verticals and I dont have a real problem worth solving which I can relate to, I’m super passionate about telling stories and putting things together into thoughtful pieces.

I think there’s a very real opportunity here in the content space, and I’m getting more and more excited every, single day.

Here’s why:

1) More people coming online

As I wrote in my previous article, Internet penetration as a whole is going up everyday, and we are consuming more content than ever before, thanks to access to mobile. More people are getting access to Internet, what this means too is that the absolute online traffic will only continue to grow, especially in Asia, where internet penetration is relatively low but they are growing faster than anywhere around the world.

All of these new traffic source (demand) is looking for reliable news site to consume content (supply). Also, online traffic is not a zero sum game: news site with the most interesting and consistent content (in terms of quality and quantity) will win the loyalty of the readers.

In the next few years, there are hundred millions of internet users coming onboard from Asia looking for content to consume.

This is a big deal.

Increasingly, conversations between media outlet and readers will be more important than ever before. Media outlets in this part of the world is still very much engaged in a one way conversation with readers.

Also read: Blogs are no longer just blogs

2) Traditional news site shifting online

Print is dead. Magazines are shutting down. Cable tv, Radios and old medias are looking for new ways to engage their audience, and all of these ways point to one direction: online, where all the users are congregating.

The segregation of these traffic will diffuse to other new media outlet which often can move fast enough than old clumsy traditional news site (though of course they usually have greater financial backing).

Look at it this way: traditionally, we can only cross from one country to another country by ship (before the invention of aeroplane). With Aeroplane, all of the sudden, a person can buy a budget airline ticket, a first class ticket, or he can take multiple pit stops, and he can choose whichever airlines he is pleased with.

Similarly, we used to rely on traditional media outlet for information. We can only gain access to information through the nation’s newspaper or the national television. With Internet, all of the sudden, we can consume all the content we want, in whichever ways we want.

3) Marc Andreessen

Mr Marc Andreessen, a popular Venture Capitalist engaged in a Twitter conversation just a few days after I wrote my previous post, saying that he is (and I quote) “more optimistic/bullish about future of news industry over next 20 years than almost anyone I know. Will grow 10x-100x.

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 12.28.23 am

Exactly my point #1.

He also argued that:

  • Distribution going from locked down to completely open, anyone can create & distribute, no $ premium for control of distribution.¬†
  • Formerly separate industries colliding on Internet. Newspaper vs magazine vs broadcast TV vs cable TV vs wire service, now all compete.
  • Market size dramatically expanding–many more people consume news now vs 10-20 yrs ago, many more still in 10-20 yrs. Big, big deal.

This is a great assurance to the content industy. If you need more signs, Jon Russell of The Next Web recently painted a great picture on the growth potential of the content industry:

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 8.05.45 pm

4) Access of information

Another reason why I’m bullish about the content industry is this, the person with the access of information wins. Everyday, media outlets get pitched hundreds of stories, and it is easy to spot who’s the new popular startup, and the next big thing.

Of course, news media outlet needs to then see how can they leverage on these information, at the same time maintain its integrity. These informations are usually leveraged and manifested in the form of conferences. More on this later.

5) Asia is the new growth engine

Finally, we’ve heard this over and over again. Asia is the new growth engine.

This chart I included in my previous post says it all, where in the next few years, over 400+ M people from SEA are potentially coming online:

southeast-asia-internet-penetration-infographic

Things to note:

Though there are great potential in Asia’s online content industry, there are a couple of things that media outlets need to bear in mind, based on a few observations I made:

1) Breadth vs depth

Marc mentioned that you either go wide or go deep to win. I think there has to be a balance. Logically, depth is better than breadth: as there are more noise online, there’s a premium for quality content which are in depth. However, there’s a risk of reporting news for the sake of reporting it, without proper understanding of the ecosystem or the topic in mind. I think in Asia, there is a lack of in depth content or proper journalism. Which is fine, because everything takes time. Then the strategy should be to go breadth, cover as many topics as you can, with a particular theme connecting all the topics.

In content, quantity is also king, as much as quality is king. There’s a big debate on this, but I’m a firm believer that quantity is king. It’s simple really: every article has the potential to harness different traffic from the Internet. You will never know which reader you attract will end up being a loyal reader. And of course, pageviews correlate directly with ad revenue, the core business model for news site, although it sucks as one.

Still not convinced?

  1. News site A produces 10 articles a day generating an average of 1000 pageviews per article.
  2. News site B produces 5 articles a day generating an average of 1200 pageviews per article.

In the long run, who will win? ūüôā

But if there are too much content being produced, then the media outlet will be seen as a content farm, which might be detrimental to the brand. Which brings back to my point: there has to be a balance. I think the 80 – 20 rule applies here too: 80% general content + 20% in depth content.

There are other companies focusing on content marketing, in which their content strategy is 100% quality in depth content. That’s another topics to discuss on: companies focusing on building thought leadership through content marketing (such as Buffer and First Round Capital)

2) “Buzzfeed”-ish and “Upworthy”-ish articles

I’m sure all of us came across the above-mentioned two websites which rose to fame thanks to heart touching headlines such as these:

“A Funny Video That Makes You Never Want To Fall For This Natural Lie Again”

“5 Reasons Why My Girlfriend Thinks She’s Not Beautiful Enough, No Matter What Anyone Tells Her”

“He Was About To Take His Own Life ‚ÄĒ Until A Man Stopped Him. Here He Meets Him Face To Face Again.”

I remembered a fellow journalist telling me that she doesnt subscribe to these kind of content, and that she despise it.

I’ve seen what this kind of content can do to news media outlet (to the extent that it broke our server), and as Jon Evans put it, this is the future, whether it lives or dies. We think it is necessary to be included as part of media company’s content strategy.

We subscribe to this too, and we understand that all online news follows a power law. The scaling exponents may vary, but the fundamental distribution remains the same. A small number of viral articles get most of the attention, a long tail gets little to none, and the decay from the former to the latter is described by a surprisingly smooth curve.

tc-dist

Like it or not, this is the trend now, and why fight the trend when you can ride on it? That is why over at Vulcan Post, ~5% of our content are¬†“Buzzfeed”-ish and “Upworthy”-ish articles, which brings in fresh new traffic. Although majority of them never come back, even if 5% of them stayed on, that is a significant conversion for us.

A majority of the traffic also “sprinkle over” to other articles, through carefully placed “recommended articles” section. These other articles which, hopefully, are “in depth” and “quality” enough to convert the non valuable traffic from the¬†“Upworthy”-ish articles into valuable traffic. More on this in another post.

3) Revenue Model

Another big debate for online media outlet is this: revenue model. There’s a huge debate on whether paywall works or not.

Marc said that he doesn‚Äôt think paywalls are going to work for many media companies, because they ‚Äúpenalize most loyal customers‚ÄĚ and are therefore very tricky.

I think it might work; but it has to be manifested in other forms: online exclusives, or online magazine. This is something that The Information (online exclusives) and The Next Web (magazine) is doing. Would be super interesting if TNW can share their numbers and growth for the magazine.

The way I see it, tech media publication is a distribution channel for all the other money making verticals that you have to venture into, as a media company. For examples: Conferences, Magazines, E Commerce, Consulting etc. That’s why you see companies like Techcrunch going for events and The Next Web going for magazines, products etc.

4) Mobile growth

One last thing to note about the content industry is this: Mobile. An astounding 70% of Vulcan Post’s traffic comes from mobile. I think there’s a lot of opportunities there, but it is not fully understood yet.

News site are currently still designed and optimized for readers reading from desktop. This is a different context from optimizing your site for mobile and enabling a mobile view. I’m talking more about ad placement opportunities, recommended reading sections, or even text based optimization. I know for myself that a 4 paragraph article on desktop might be readable, but the similar content is too long to consume on my mobile.

Really really excited for this space and for all the innovations that will be coming!

Also read: Here’s what’s happening in the content industry now

My life so far: 11 jobs and counting

Learning is a life long process. While sharing about my past 25 years of my life yesterday, I come to realize that I have worked more than 10 jobs to date. Let’s define work first before i jump into my first few jobs and what i learnt, to me, something I did with a monetary reward = work. That’s the definition. So here goes:

2003 – Waiter at Nemo Bistro

Back in 2003, I waited at one of my best buddy’s uncle’s bar/bistro. This is in Kuching and it was my first ever job. My mum has always raised me up with the mentality to always learn and explore new things. She would rather have me go try out a new job, hang out with friends and talk about stuff, or explore a new country rather than sitting at home watching TV. ¬†When my buddy asked if I am interested to help out at Nemo’s, without hesitation I said yes. It was more to fill in someone else’s slot.

So every night I would wait with my buddy at the uncle’s place and every night after work, I would get RM30 for a 4 hours work. My buddy’s parents would¬†chauffeur me to and from work. I was 15. I lasted 2 weeks.

Lessons learnt: Not sure if there are any specific lessons learnt, but i remembered wanting to start my own business when I grow older. Another lesson I learnt was to always ask if I am unsure about anything, especially if the food orders from customers were not clear.

2006 – Sold roses during Valentines day

In February 2005 during Valentines Day, me and another two buddies of mine decided that we should try selling roses. Yes you’ve got it right: the one where you see people carrying basket of roses going around asking people to buy roses for their girlfriend on the street. I was one of them. We worked out the cost: to break even, each of us had to sell X stalks of roses, and once all of us hit the breakeven point, it would all be net profits. We even worked out the amount we would make if we sold off every single roses, and we were super excited about it. We even thought of rewarding ourselves with a good meal.

Of course, it did not turn out the way we wanted it to be.

Not only did we not breakeven, we made some losses because there were simply too many people selling roses. We went around asking people to buy our roses but we were simply ignored. We competed with prices, but we soon realized that price competition did not work, and it was responded with a price war from other sellers. I was 17.

Lessons learnt: We realized that for this kind of seasonal business to work, you have to rely a lot on pre-orders. Price war only causes more damage than good. Another thing which I only come to realize a lot later was that, in everything you do, ask yourself, how do you stand out? Everyone can sell roses, but how do you stand out? It applies to everything we do: everyone can start a website, everyone can do mathematics, everyone can start a business, but how do you stand out?

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 1.14.53 AM

2006 – 2007 – eTiQa

In between 2006 and 2007, Maybank has just introduced one of their new insurance scheme called the eTiQa. For simplicity stake, let’s just treat it as just another insurance scheme. I joined eTiQa as one of its pioneer agents in Kuching. I figured that it would be easier since the scheme was in my hometown, and had very appealing benefits to its clients. I also figured that since it is a well known brand in Malaysia, it wouldnt be that hard to sell it.

So me along with a few friends, we would go to a shopping mall where there are pop up booths for eTiQa agents and we would spend the whole day trying to convert on walking shoppers into our customers. For each successful converts, depending on the quantum of the policy we would get a passive monthly income of RM100. I remembered getting 4 customers in 2 weeks. I was 18.

Lessons learnt: It was through eTiQa that I understand more about passive income, something which I only read about in Rich Dad Poor Dad. It was also through eTiQa that I learnt how to approach strangers and pitch to them a product, and my it was painful. I also learnt how to try different opening pitches and adjust my subsequent pitches based on their facial reactions. I probably pitched to more than 1000 shoppers. It also helped a lot if your product has a strong brand.

2006 – 2007 Tuition teacher and a private tutor

It didnt take me long to realize that selling insurance was something I dont like doing. At the same period, one of my secondary tuition teacher who operates a tuition center asked if I am interested to teach her students whom are in the upper secondary levels. I had no reasons to say no and figured it would be fun, so I went ahead and taught secondary 1 2 3 students science and mathematics. I took a 40% split for each student I taught. While sometimes I told myself that I probably deserve at least a 50-50 split or 60-40 split, I still gave in my best and the students then loved me.

Shortly after I stopped helping out, the students would request to continue being my tutee and I would then set up my own mini tuition center at my house. My sleeping room would be transformed into a mini tuition room. I had 5 students whom I taught them chemistry and mathematics (sec 3) at my room in Kuching twice a week. I ended up bagging 100% of the tuition fee for myself, and that would be my monthly pocket money then. I was 18 as well.

Lessons learnt: Give in your best, and you’ll most probably reap the returns later. A lot of times in life, while working, you work to learn.

2008 – Government (SMK Batu Lintang) secondary school Relieve teacher

In 2008 before I came to Singapore, my Secondary 6 (Pre-U) biology teacher asked if I could help fill in another one of our school biology teacher’s schedule as she would be on maternal leave. It was a huge responsibility for me because I had no prior experience in proper teaching, and it would be my first “official” job. My mum was happy for me and said that teaching might be a viable career opportunity: You work from 6am to 1pm, and you have the second half of the day off to pursue whatever you want. The pay is ok and government job is stable. While I had some hesitation, I said yes to my biology teacher and took the 2 month long job.

As part of the job, I would also be the form teacher of a class and I am also required to teach additional mathematics. While the stint lasted 2 months, I learnt quite a few things. I also earned my first pay check from the government! I think it was RM1400 per month.

Lessons learnt: You need to behave yourself professionally to command respect. Once you lose the respect, it is very hard to gain it back. I took a different approach in teaching, I wanted my students to treat me as equal and i want them to know that they can approach me anytime they want to ask any questions. Apparently that did not work out so well in the more¬†mischievous class but it worked like a charm in the better classes. In different situation, you have to tweak your behaviour to suit your target audience. And while it was good to be “friends” with some of the students, you have to still remember to draw the line when you need to. The same goes for my work later or when I started my next ventures: Once you lose the respect or when you lose the motivation, it is very hard to get it back.

2010 – 2011 – Ortus Group & Ascendas

As part of my NUS Overseas Shanghai stint, i spent 6 months working for Ortus Group, a PR and events company based in Shanghai and the next 6 months working for Ascendas Shanghai. At Ortus, I was the assistant marketing manager and I handled a couple of events and accounts servicing for clients like Skechers, Shanghai World Expo, and Keppel Land. One of the major things I learnt here was to know how to deal with last minute changes especially in the events industry, something which I am still not comfortable with even today. Another thing I learnt the hard way is, if you cant help yourself, nobody can.

I shortly departed Ortus and joined Ascendas as a market analyst. I was in charge of feasibility studies for second and third tier countries. I would evaluate the various proposals for real estate development and see if they fit into Ascendas’ strategy in China. While exciting, I didnt like the whole corporate environment.

2012 – Jerseypal

When I came back to Singapore from Shanghai, one of my batchmate and I came together to sell bicycle jerseys. He needed someone to handle the website and online marketing, and also a partner to make sure that things are reasonable. We would ship in bicycle jerseys in bulks and sell them off through our simple blog and through word of mouth. While we made some money (high margins), I told him that it wasnt meant for me and I wasnt enjoying what I do. I was not familiar with the industry and I was not passionate about the whole cycling thing. I wasnt comfortable doing all the logistics too.

Lesson learnt: I learnt quite a lot, the primary one being, you have to understand an industry before you jump into it. For Jerseypal, it was quite an eye opening short venture to me: I took care of the finances (the need to keep track of every penny since the beginning), inventory & logistics (the need to commit an upfront cash payment for inventory & put back the first trench of revenue into reordering), and order fulfillment. I also learnt a bit about sunk costs and hidden costs. Did i also mention logistics is a bitch?

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 1.12.33 AM

2012 – Lunchsparks

Another thing which I did with 2 of my other friends was Lunchsparks, an offline version of linkedin. Basically its a targeted version of Meetup.com: tell us who you want to meet professional, we hook you up with that person with the background you require, and we arrange the lunch at one of our partner restaurants. Things were looking good in the beginning, we had 4 partner restaurants, we arranged more than 100+ meetups between professionals, we had a grant, and we had some seed funding offers (which we never take up). While there were quite some promises, due to the team’s other commitment, we decided to call it. While we had an MVP out, we never publicly released it, simply because we thought that it wasnt good enough.

Lessons learnt (i’ll probably do another blog post on this): Team > Ideas. Period. A good team will make a bad idea work, and a good idea will be bad with a bad team. Another lesson for me was: ship fast and iterate often. We should have just shipped our platform out and it was pretty decent work now when I think back. We wanted to wait until it was perfect with all the matching algorithms and the most presentable UI, something I only found out later to be non existent: there will never be a perfect product. Another thing which I learnt is that, 70% of a $150k company is worth more than 100% of a $0 company.

lunchsparks

2012: N – House

In the same year since I came back from Shanghai, I was also the pioneer resident assistant of N-House, I was tasked to lead 100 residents during their stay in Singapore’s first entrepreneurial themed dorm. I pioneered the weekly Wicked Wednesday session where we invited speakers to come and speak to the residents of N-House. N-House was featured on Bloomberg too.

Lessons learnt: Community building is harder than it sounds, and there will always be those that dont care about what you do/plan for them, you just have to move on (if they dont help themselves, nobody can, so it’s ok). Another thing I learnt is also to know when to assign tasks to your teammate and sometimes you have to trust that they will do the job.

2011 – now: e27

Of course, I have also been working for e27 for almost 2 years now. (Read more: my role at e27)

I started off reviewing apps, and moved on to cover startup news around Southeast Asia. My role evolved from a writer to events and product manager. I recently emceed for Echelon too, one of our company’s flagship event! Will probably be writing a lot more about my learnings from managing products at e27 in the upcoming few months, integrating all the lessons i have learnt from my past 10 jobs into my current role at e27.

emcee

So yeaps, there you go, my life so far, 11 jobs and counting.

P/S You should follow me on Twitter and check out the cool stuffs I have done!

5 startups metrics you should know today

A friend called me this morning and asked me, what is the 5 most important thing to measure for an online venture?

This is for a startup grant application form he is trying to fill. While I am not an expert in this, here’s what I told him:

Page Views

Like every businesses, awareness is key before you get any sales. In terms of a web startup, awareness is manifested and reflected as page views. Page views is the number of times a visitor view your a single page on your website. The higher your page views, the higher your awareness, the higher chance you get someone to buy and pay for a product that you are offering.

Click Through Rates/Conversions

Click through rates is the % of visitors who visit your site and click on your product. This is not the same as conversion rate, although both are directly correlated. When a visitor at your site click on one of your product and end up paying for it, the visitor is a converted visitor. A high page views ensure a high a high click through rate, which subsequently increases the conversion rate.

Disclaimer: There are other factors that affects click through rates, notably user experience. Same goes for conversions. There are a lot of factors affecting it too, including pricing and product/market fit.

Customer Acquisition Cost

The third metric which I shared with my friend is customer acquisition cost. In simple terms, it means how much does it cost to get a customer. This is usually calculated as marketing cost/total new customers. Marketing cost includes advertising + commissions + sales person + website. Depending on which industry you are in, customer acquisition cost can be as low as a few dollars (mobile apps) to hundreds of dollars (enterprise software/education).

User Demographic/Channel

“Knoweth Where Thy Customers Resideth” – Yongfook, 21 Actionable Growth Hacking Tips.

This should be fairly straight forward. You should always know who your users are and where they come from. Traditional businesses survive on this as well: Think bookstores, restaurants or barber. They are always located at places where there is a huge human traffic flow, and before they open a physical store, they choose the venue based on their target customers and where they usually frequent. The same goes for a website. You should always know who you are targeting, where they come from and how to track them. Google Analytics is a great way to help you determine these: User age group, location, which browser are they using, which language are they on. For user channel, a properly tracked website allows you to see where you are getting your users from. A good understanding of your user demographic and channel will also positively affect your page views and conversions.

Growth (Users/Revenue)

The final metric is growth rate. Growth rate for startups are usually very low as they go through a customer development phase. Early adopters make up the initial growth curve and before any startups can reach the legendary hockey stick curve, they have to “cross the chasm”.

Actually, another important metric is user retention/engagement. This metric should come before user growth.

P/S You should follow me on Twitter and check out the cool stuffs I have done!

How do you improve your writings?

Do you wish you can write better and improve your writing skills? Yea me too.

A friend asked me earlier today on Facebook:

What do you suggest about improving technique/style?

While I’m not any expert yet, here’s what I told him.

Read a lot.

Everyone has their own way of writings. For me, i read a lot. Like A LOT. I especially like Svbtle.

Svbtle is a community made up of hundreds of writers whose expertise spans many disciplines, from entrepreneurship, biology, and finance to anthropology, political science, and literature. Because the community is handpicked and thoughtfully curated, there are amazing content from thought leaders penning down their opinions there. It is a great way to discover new opinions, how people voice them out, how people pen down their thoughts, and how they write.

Svbtle

My backlog for all the great posts on Svbtle

Study and let your writing style develop on its own.

I dont copy the writing styles of the various Svbtle authors, but I keep them at the back of my mind, and I let my style of writing develop on its own. At the end of the day, you have to develop your own style of writing. While i write professionally at e27, my personal blog has a clear distinction in terms of how I write versus my voice at e27. When I start blogging on Quora next week, I will develop another kind of writing style, a more detailed and data backed writing style.

Start a blog. Write a lot.

The next thing is to start your own personal blog. The more you write, the better you become. It’s like swimming. Of course, writing a lot also means, develop a consistent habit of writing, and that requires a lot of discipline. A lot of great potential authors never had the chance to realize how good they are simply because they never had to discipline to constantly write and constantly rediscover themselves.

Launching your product

It is common for us to be emotionally attached to the product we have spent weeks or months building. Because of that emotional attachment, we tend to forget this: we are probably the only ones in the world who care about the product. While this is commonly shared and told by those who have been there and done that, ¬†nobody cares about your product. So, don’t let any minor details slow you down in pushing that “launch now” button.

You would probably be thinking to nail everything right to its details and to build the best product for your customers. Remember, there is no such thing as perfection. Product goes through a constant process of iteration. The following picture probably wont happen:

“Launch the product, share on Facebook, 100+ shares, local tech blogs picked you up, hit top 10 on hacker news, 10000 page views, 5% conversion, 500+ sign ups per day!”

It probably looked more like this:

“Launch the product, share on Facebook, 5 likes from your best friends, submit post on Hacker News, begs friends to upvote it, 100 total page views, 3-4 sign ups from potential competitors.”

The fact is, growth and sales is a fine combination of: Great product complemented by great features + nailing UX (in terms of conversion) + community empowerment (more on this another day) + top notch customer experience and satisfaction + affordable pricing + product/market fit + speed to market/execution + a bit of luck.

So launching the product is just step 1 and makes up only a tiny fraction of the full equation. Your product doesnt just end after you launch it, in fact, it just started. And it is disheartening sometimes that there are founders whom hold back their v1.0 launch because they want to perfect a certain product feature or perfecting the font size.

So startup founders, get your minimum presentable product (i dont believe in minimum viable product) out now and just launch it, and iterate with the feedbacks from your customers who might care about it. The magical moment when your website is live, will last for 1 minute (okay maybe 5 minutes) and that’s about it. Once you launch, there are a lot of things to optimize: pricing, features, sign up page, UI, some bugs here and there. Don’t perfect the product to its details because you might end up changing them again based on actual customer feedbacks. Focus on getting feedbacks and focus on providing your customers with the best experience.

Best way to do this: have a strict schedule and stick to it. If it is agreeable from the beginning that the product is to be launched 2 months later, launch it regardless. This is very important to cultivate the sense of discipline in the team. Any delay in schedules will be used as future “references” or act as a precedence. As a result, future urgency will be taken less seriously.

I’ve sticked to my schedule. Got it launched in 2 months, from inception of idea, to single handedly secured 30+ partners, to UI/UX, product development, pricing strategy, marketing and working with a designer and a developer.

And yes, nobody cared about the launch yet.

We must all suffer one of two things the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment Jim Rohn

You should follow me on Twitter:  @Jackyyapp

Keep holding on

Few days back I had a conversation with a fellow entrepreneur based in Singapore. So he is raising funding for his startup. One of the things which came across our conversation was the topic on funding and validation.

So here’s his story: He is looking to raise fund. Approached a couple of investors, not a lot of response. He wonders why? Some investors said that they need to see bigger tractions from his company. But because of the nature of his business, traction and scale can only be achieved through new injection of funds. So, what next?

He said this: “It’s hard because without the investment, things are moving slow and with no significant progress, it could be challenging to manage team morale.”

Things would be different if you received an investment. It’s a vote of confidence. A vote of validation. It removes all your worries. Almost all.

My friend, is still a current undergraduate.

So what would you do if you were him?

Recently I came across an article titled “Failure is not the worst outcome, mediocrity is”. Great piece on Dropbox’s CEO Drew Houston.

So back to my friend, whom is sort of struggling whether to call it or to keep on pushing. If you follow the footstep of Drew Houston, mediocre traction/growth should send you a signal that you should throw in the towel. After all, there are a lot of great ideas everywhere.

Then again, success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. More often than not, when you are at the verge of giving up, you are actually two steps from succeeding.

So the key is, how do you balance this?

Personally, I think this is where surrounding yourself with great and experienced people helps a lot. I probably have had shared this again and again, having an accountability partner is important too.

Read also: Accountability Partner

These are the people that can help you redefine your vision and help keep you on the right track. Accountability partner is somewhat like a casual version of a mentor.

Of course, it can be hard to come across one. But they are somewhere, and they are looking around too. Make it known that you are looking for one. Be proactive in looking to be someone else’s accountability partner. It’s very much like courting: you have to put efforts into it. Be proactive in maintaining that particular professional relationship.