Content.co founder Chan Yi Wen on her quest for constant innovation
Two years ago, Chan Yi Wen, was a journalist at The Business Times and facing a huge dilemma in the newsroom. Brands were moving away from advertising after finding it increasingly ineffective, and were starting to become their own media companies, by producing useful content for their stakeholders.
“We started noticing that every brand wanted to be their own publishers, but had little resources and experience in doing so. Solo talents are incapable of creating content across different verticals; just as how you wouldn’t use a fashion writer to produce content for the technology sector, and vice versa,” she says, demonstrating an acuity in picking up and forecasting market trends. “Content marketing is a way to put a brand’s best foot forward, as traditional advertising methods aren’t working out so well.”
Content.co today has a fast-growing network of over 5,000 content creators, across multiple markets and sectors in Asia Pacific. It uses a special technology software to filter through the right content creators, matching them up with the appropriate brands. “Manually matching them up would take many messy months!” Yi Wen laughs. “The right creator is one with proper industry knowledge and contacts, who is able to create content that adds value to the reader, especially at a time when there is a flood of content being published every single day. Brands will only be able to stand out by producing highly customised, meaningful content.”
Instead of racing to the next big thing, she stays steadfast in her startup conviction. “I am a huge believer that content will eventually become brand-sponsored,” she quips. “Just look at Bloomberg terminals: Their news arm only contributes to a small portion of their annual revenue. However, they inherently sponsor the Bloomberg terminals in their news pieces, from embedding terminal videos, statistics and price lists. And it makes sense, as these terminals make up the bulk of their annual revenue!”
Welcome to a new era of digital storytelling, it all starts with finding the right people to tell your story.
INNOVATION IS EVERYWHERE, WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT
Innovation used to move slower in bigger companies, but these companies have recognised that new ideas and solutions are the key to their future. That’s why SPH came up with SPH Plug and Play, and MediaCorp with Mediapreneur. These corporations are realising that it is hard to move fast within their companies, and are setting up external units that act very much like startups and aren’t bogged down by existing systems, to create new solutions.
ELON MUSK MAKES FOR A GOOD DOSE OF INSPIRATION
Follow Elon’s First Principle: Instead of trying to copy and improve someone else’s existing ideas, examine at the fundamental problems. Unlike big companies where you often have to improve upon existing solutions, being in a startup means starting afresh. In corporates, you have to move slower due to the necessary approvals and permissions needed. Whereas in the startup game, there are no legacy problems and you’re free to explore new ideas to solve a problem from scratch. However, I read somewhere that ‘startups have no reason to exist, as the world is going on well without you anyway’. I won’t lie, it’s a daily battle because you have to never stop thinking about your business.
THE BIGGEST STARTUP EYE-OPENERS
Back when I was a journalist, my main responsibilities was to write my story and ensure that it’s error free. I would concern myself with getting enough scoops, making my editor happy and getting on well with my colleagues. I never really saw the business aspect of things. But now in a startup there are daily fires to fight. You handle everything — from hiring and training the right people, to the proper delegation of tasks. Taking care of cash flow, sales, product development, marketing, and a ton of different roles I never took on. It was a huge eye-opener, and being in a startup is all about getting up to speed as soon as you can.
THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT TRAITS OF AN ENTREPRENEUR
The first, is the ability to remain calm even though the world may be crashing down around you. Focus would be the second. As you are starting out, you will be exposed to new ideas every single day, but if you are trying to tackle 10 different side projects, it won’t be productive. Lastly, keep thinking of different ways to improve yourself, and your business. Set aside some time in your day to think about how you can do better tomorrow. If not, you’d just be on repeat-mode everyday. Answering emails all day won’t grow a company, innovating will.
INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS COME FROM MEETING NEW PEOPLE
Being at LEVEL3 fulfils my need to be in close proximity to Unilever, and makes meetings with them much easier. Being in a coworking space allows me to constantly meet new people during the many events that LEVEL3 organises. This is a good thing, because you’ll just be in self-repeat mode if you’re always stuck around people like yourself. It’s only through meeting other people where you discover the most interesting solutions to existing problems.