2014/10/28 by lingdecklee
1. Where did the idea for your startup come from?
One of my co-founders came up with the idea through his school experiences. We believe that everyone has challenges and needs to be fulfilled, and others that have the skills to fulfill these needs. Everyone has something that is of value to someone else. For example, perhaps someone who has never studied abroad would like to understand what it is. Someone with even 3 months of experience studying abroad may be able to answers some questions and be of help to them. This the idea behind skillhopping, connecting people with different skills to other people with these needs.
2. Who are your target customers and why do they use your service or product rather than competitors?
We have not yet found a major competitor in Asia. However, Skillshare in the US is one of our competitors.
As we are still in the early stages and we are evolving, we are still trying to find our niche. Of course, ourplatform is in Chinese and caters to the Chinese market while Skillshare is in English, which is a problem for local users. Another difference is that many of our users will meet in person to do exchanges, while most exchanges on skillshare happen online.
3. What is your business model?
As we are in the very early stages, we are still adjusting and finding our business model. Currently, we are considering a freemium and premium model where the freemium model exists similarly to its current form, and a premium model with more features. In terms of market, in the early stages, we are focusing on students, are passed easily between students.
We hope to expand the target market in the future to a target demographic of up to 35 years old.
4. Give an example of how the marketplace has proved your intuition completely wrong, and another example of when your intuition has been completely on the money. How have you cultivated a better sense of the market?
We were originally worried about the safety of our users. Would they meet suspicious people through our platform? We have put warnings on our website, to be careful of safetly. However, this has not been as much of an issue as originally thought. I suppose it’s similar to couch surfing, some people are worried but others still do it.
Something my intuition has been correct about is about the user interface and how much guidance we should give to users regarding their “skill spiel”. As I originally expected, when given little guidance, they don’t write enough specifics about the skills or values that they bring to the table. “I can help with coding” is not good enough, as coding is so broad. Another problem is that sometimes people aren’t able to live up to their post. We met one user who said she could help others with their English, but upon meeting, was found to have very non-fluent English.
5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having co-founders instead of just a founder? How does this affect how decisions are made in your startup?
We have 9 people in our team: 2 are full-time, 7 are part-time. We also have 4 co-founders. The advantages are that we have very comprehensive skill sets in the team. We are covered: marketing, PR, planning, strategy, good programmers, and designers. We have been running for 1 month and we already have 1000 users.
The disadvantage is that sometimes decisions take longer than expected. We believe the team is very important. We want to everyone to be involved, to participate and feel like part of the team. So when we introduce new ideas, new features, there are a lot of discussions that happen, and everyone has their opinion.
6. What has been your best marketing investment to date?
I think the quality of the user experience is very important. If people like the idea, they’re willing to give it a try. We’ve have spent a lot of time collecting data and sharing stories about our product. When people are touched by a product, they are willing to share with their friends.
2. What has been your greatest challenge since becoming an entrepreneur?
Decision making. We talk to lots of people and get lots of feedback every day. We have to find a way to keep the good advice and get rid of the bad advice. Or sometimes it’s good advice, but is it suitable for us? Especially when it wasn’t in our original plan? We believe in what we are doing, but sometimes it’s still hard to make some decisions.
3. What helps you keep going in the face of challenges and obstacles?
I think having a great business partner definitely helpls. We always encourage and cheer each other on when one of us feels down. He’ll pat me on my back and tell me, “You did great; we can figure this out.” We know that no matter what, we’ll figure it out, that we’ll make it happen. It’s important to have someone next to you, who’s not going to just quit – it gives you a sense of security and trust.
4. What experience has been most useful to you in your entrepreneurship journey?
When I was in London, I went to over 100 business networking. I know that it was something that could build up my social skills, communication skills, helped me learn how to listen to people, get feedback.
That’s important as an entrepreneur, to sell your idea all the time. I think that everyone should try it. I knew that I wanted to be a entrepreneur so I kept going to events, because I knew that it would help me in the future.
5. What do you need to learn or improve to take your business to the next level?
Startup sometime can be messy and as there are so many things to do, and so many things going on all at the same time. I think that we need to be more organized and improve our time management. In our startup, where we all started as friends, sometimes it’s difficult to tell others what to do, which makes it more difficult to get things done. We might bring in an advisor, or something with related experience, to help us with this one.