Monday, 4 July 2016

Learning to operate a digital product

Things worth noting down.

In the past two weeks, I've been trying very hard on the marketing strategy adoption for our newborn platform "Dadafish". It's basically to solve the market place chicken and egg problem in a more cost-efficient manner.

We start from the teacher acquisition:
  1. Location based Door to Door marketing(visit physical store based on locations). 
  2. Vertical domain marketing approach(research 2-3 subdomains and find the relevant hosts to host classes on Dadafish)
So far, we've got quite a number of classes ongoing, ranging from arts/crafts, language, cooking, sports. For the time being, we focus a lot on language and arts/crafts. Classes coming in the next few weeks:

1. Classes conducted this week:
  • Japanese writing class
  • Chinese class for complete beginners

2. Class conducting next week:

  • Japanese writing class
  • French language exchange for complete beginners(3 groups)
  • French language exchange for immediate level(1 group)
  • Chinese language course for complete beginners

3. Class conducting the week after:

  • Japanese language course(trial) for complete beginners
  • German language course(trial) for complete beginners
  • Turkish Ebru painting class.

4. Class conducting

  • Spanish language course(trial) for complete beginners
  • Italian language course(trial) for complete beginners

Classes under discussion:

  • Chocolate tasting workshops(Two workshops)
  • Coffee workshops(Two workshops)
  • Wooden craftsman workshops(1 workshop)
  • Wine tasting workshop
  • Yoga workshop
  • Cooking and Baking workshops

For student acquisition, it's harder.

As an online platform, the digital marketing approach would be really important.

It initially started from our own personal connections and meetups.
1. Wechat groups
2. NUS alumni/student group
3. Meetups

Now we are also exploring
  • Facebook/Instagram/Twitter marketing
  • Medium post writing
  • SEO
It seems that the face to face appointment approach is so far the most effective approach in acquiring teachers. Meetups is so far the most important channel we have for students acquisition.


Things motivated me this week:

1. I visited a cafe named Oriole. It's very encouraging to share with them about our concepts and values. It was a really nice match.


2. Our new French friend flew all the way from Paris to SG on his culture journey. We never know each other before he flew over. I asked him: "Why do you trust me even before you meet me?" He says the same question should also go to me as well. We just trust each other. He shared his thoughts about Travel and Tourism from two philosophers.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: "Travel in order to learn more." from the book "Emile or On Education".

There is also Montaigne who says that : "There is an art of traveling", there is a huge difference between "Tourism and Traveling".

3. Mr. Tan, who's a floweriest in Raffles Hotel. He's holding his Kenzans(Japanese flower arrangement equipment) which accompany him for more than 40 years. He shared his experience with me which is really inspiring. He's really interested in Flower Arrangement. He learnt after his NS and fell in love with it ever since. Then he went to Japan to learn it more properly and later also to Taiwan when a western floweriest came to teach. However, he didn't pick Flower Arrangement as his career in the beginning as it'll be "too tiring" according to other people. After working on other careers for 10 years, his cannot stop following his heart to work with flowers. Though it can be tiring, he decided to work full-timely with flowers. Now he's doing really good, but he thinks that he should be doing it 10 years earlier. He'll definitely have more energy and do better.





Sunday, 12 June 2016

Thoughts

I've been working as a project manager on an interesting project named "Dadafish" for quite some time. The intention is to create a sharing economy platform for lifestyle teaching/learning. Put in a more straightforward way, an Airbnb for classes.



There is one assumption:  People are willing to pay to learn skills from amateur or semi-pros at a lower price.

Quite some ongoing arts classes in meetups are taught in cafe shops at 15-50SGD/session. It's an indirect validation of our assumption. There are also many free language classes in meetups and facebook groups. We did an experiment to validate the assumption by introducing a Japanese friend who's organizing a free meetup to teach Japanese. She doesn't have a certificate and she's currently teaching Japanese in meetups for free. The experiment class was charged at 15 SGD/h per person for a 3-4 pax group class. We posted the class and teacher info in a NUS student/alumni SNS group and three people signed up. One student who intends to travel to Japan with her parents, one working adult who's currently working in a Japanese company and one fresh graduate who's interested in Japanese culture. The class turned out to be really good despite the fact that the teacher is not a pro.



There were two local companies who tried the experiment before: Learnemy(C2C) and LessonsGoWhere(B2C). Both of them failed. Learnemy's lady went to Facebook to work. LessonsGoWhere just sold the company this year after a big loss with the introduction of SkillFuture program by the Singapore government.

In the states, there are also some companies tried that. One of them is SkillShare. They initially tried offline teaching but they failed to solve the location issue. Then they become a purely online learning platform.

The problem statement wasn't strong enough if we are simply another marketplace for people to find cool things to learn. That'll end up to be a supplementary platform of SkillFuture.

While meeting up with the founder of LessonsGoWhere, he's proposing the followings:
  • There are normally two models to work things out. Saas model and the marketplace model. For learning/education, Saas model makes more sense. It can be a platform to empower the teachers/organisations to manage their classes. Marketplace model can work for lifestyle things, but not tuition.
  • For the two kinds of classes: fixed class(one-off classes) and recurring classes. The marketplace model is very unlikely to work for recurring classes as people will stay with the teacher and not stay with your platform any longer. For fixed classes, it works.
  • Focus on one vertical, not everything. As a startup, resources are very limited. We've got to be very strong in one domain before spreading to other domains. He gave a very good example of their growth story. Early the second year, they are getting better in acquiring new classes. However, the sales don't get grow. With 25% growth in the bookable classes in all categories, only 5% of growth in the total sales. Then they changed the strategy to focus more on cooking/baking classes(the strongest domain they have). It paid off.

My partner Otto and I also met Bastian, a cool growth hacker based in Singapore.

  • The problem statement for our platform is not clear. Is it still teaching/learning app or a social meetup app? The answer is still learning centric lifestyle app. The later one will have a better possibility to scale and go viral.
  • People do not want to be the first buyer. Thus for every Groupon, it always shows someone already bought the class.
  • Groupon has nothing to do with group indeed. People buy the products/services because they themselves want.
  • For marketplace chicken&egg problem, a common practise is to gather one side(either demands or supplies) to create the awarenesses even with fake posts.

For far, we are still trying very hard to find the product market fit. After visiting many space owners, lesson providers and students, we realised the biggest pain points for hosts in the learning platform are:

  1. Location. As individuals, hosts have little ideas on how to find proper locations to teach for private classes. Top priorities are condo function rooms, followed by public cafes. 
  2. Marketing&Branding. Personal branding are mostly built through word of mouth. However, that's not scalable. They should be a more powerful and useful tool for them to build the networks. So far, meetups and personal connections are the best.

Used to think in the line that we can turn under-utilized spaces into a teaching hub. Another startup in NYC is currently working on that. That sounds interesting. Let's work things out.












Saturday, 2 January 2016

Past and coming year

It's been a long time since the last blog update. A lot of things happened in the past year, mostly beyond my expectations.

1. First official startup -- Fooyo

Though I've been working with startups and individual entrepreneurs since school days, chances/courages didn't come into existence until this lean mobile team decided to work together.

It was hard, especially at the beginning when we've got nothing but hardcore ability to code mobile apps. For B2B solution providers, the primary resource is indeed customer relationships. None of us have business backgrounds, neither are we good at marketing or persuading people. The important thing is that we focus a lot on products-- the UI/UX design and development process optimisation.

Gradually, people who value our product development skills come to us. Mike's team in Minitheory is really awesome. We work together to deliver beautiful projects. One of the apps we worked together is Nibble, a food sharing app which has a great potential to become a leading service in Indonesia and beyond.  It was a great experience to work with the clients from Nibble. We become friends afterwards.



Besides individual entrepreneurs, we also partner with innovation departments of multinational companies. Centers we are currently working with includes an innovation center settled by Jones Lang LaSalle and another settled by Konica Minolta. The innovation centers are indeed quite impressive. Unlike traditional cooperatives which may be reserved and slow, they do value fast and good work.

In the past year, we've worked out quite a variety of projects, ranging from education to gaming. In the next year, we'll do more explores. There is a VR(virtual reality) project under incubation now. It's going to have a demo in late January. We may also explore device + cloud data storage projects. Now we are discussing with a project about medical device+cloud data processing.


2. Pin off a VR startup providing education/game contents.

It's under the plan. An experienced mobile game developer and a leading game artist are ready to devote themselves into VR, which is going to be a big trend in 2016. Below is an sample scene designed by our game artist. We'll need to pitch for fund and come up with 3-4 premium educational contents in the next year.



3. Explore a C2C learning platform business model and acquire users. I will need to write it in another blog post. It's quite a big thing.



In the new year, I hope I could have more chances to visit Beijing. May have 1-2 chances to visit another country briefly(probably an Indian wedding etc). Financial wise, it should be OK to feed the Fooyo team and possibly raise the salaries for the team members(ideally 10% by end of the year). However, we may not have good savings for the company until big projects come.