Growth Hacking Examples Hong Kong

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This resource contains classic ‘Growth Hacks’.

Where possible I’ll try to include Hong Kong specific examples.

This page will be a work in progress until further notice. I’ve always learned by example and I hope that this list sparks creativity for you as it did for me.

Easyship

Having the powerful adjective “easy” in your brand name is a fantastic idea because it immediately evokes simplicity. And, simplicity is what the three founders of Easyship wanted to foster. Tommaso Tamburnotti, Augustin Ceyrac, Paul Lugagne-Delpon all saw an opportunity by creating a shipping platform that connects sellers and marketplaces to couriers in a space which was traditionally chaotic.

Easyship was launched in Hong Kong in 2014 and has expanded to Singapore and the US.

There’s no doubt: easyship is a Hong Kong success story and we’re thrilled to have been able to catch up with Augustin Ceyrac (AC) to ask him our round of questions:

GH: What inspired you to start easyship?
AC: While creating the cross-border department for Lazada, we experienced first hand the complexity for small & medium business to expand internationally. We were seeing in this problem a huge market opportunity relatively untapped.

GH: What would you have done different (if anything!)
AC: Never good to have regret, whatever mistake we did in the past still is part of the reasons we are where we are now.

GH: What was it that fuelled your growth?
AC: Focus on your core value prop.

GH: How optimistic are you for the future of Hong Kong as a “startup city”? out of 5 (with 5 being the highest)
AC: 4/5

Oddup

Oddup is a fascinating startup with its HQ in Hong Kong.

Oddup is a data-driven research platform that provides investors with analytical data on global startups, their projected trends, and both current and expected future valuations. It is known as “The Startup Rating System”. The company’s mission is to disrupt equity research in private companies.

The company was founded by James Giancotti and Jackie Lam with offices in the US, India, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. The management team consists of former venture capitalists, traders, quantitative analysts, investment bankers and research analysts from a myriad of ‘traditional’ global institutions.

We’re absolutely thrilled to have been able to catch up with Co-Founder James Giancotti (JG) and we’re grateful for his answers to our questions:

GH: What inspired you to start Oddup?
JG: Need in the market for transparency

GH: What would you have done different (if anything!)
JG: [I would have] moved to San Francisco sooner and the B2B sales sooner.

GH: What was it that fuelled your growth?
JG: Partnerships

GH: How optimistic are you for the future of Hong Kong as a “startup city”? out of 5 (with 5 being the highest)
JG: 4/5

SHOPLINE

SHOPLINE was founded in Hong Kong in 2013 by Fiona Lau and Tony Wong.

The founders built SHOPLINE’s platform to help entrepreneurs achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. The system they built can be considered as being a tool which greatly helps SMEs sell online.

Their numbers are very impressive: over 150,000 merchants across 10 regions in Asia have started their own online shops with SHOPLINE! The total amount of customers that they’ve collectively served is over 80 million.

We caught up with Fiona Lau (FL) to ask her some questions:

GH: What inspired you to start SHOPLINE?
FL: We wanted to enable commerce for everyone and democratize the use of technology for businesses to grow

GH: What would you have done different (if anything!)
FL: Seek more advice from people who have gone through similar challenges and people from diverse backgrounds

GH: What was it that fuelled your growth?
FL: Not a tactic per se – but always speak to your customers, customers are your most important source of insights on how you can take your company forward.

GH: How optimistic are you for the future of Hong Kong as a “startup city”? out of 5 (with 5 being the highest)
FL: 3/5

GH: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
FL: Perseverance is the key to success – never give up!

(We love Fiona’s last comment. We couldn’t agree anymore. Thanks, Fiona for saying such a positive thing!)

Freightos

Hong Kong has a bunch of specialties, one of which is its’ ability to create first-class solution providers, and with that being said, Freightos jumps out as being one of the city’s most successful freighting companies.

The Founder, Zvi Schreiber, created an online international freight marketplace, using a SaaS-Enabled Marketplace model. The SaaS driving the model is called AcceleRate which in turn is able to provide logistics companies with freight rate management and instant freight quote.

We’re delighted to have been able to catch up with Zvi (ZS) to ask him our standard Growth Hackers Questions!

GH: What inspired you to start Freightos?
ZS: I witnessed that international shipping is manual, opaque and old fashioned.

GH: What would you have done different (if anything!)
ZS: Nothing!

GH: What was it that fuelled your growth?
ZS: Relentless pursuit of product market fit for both buyers and sellers on the Freightos marketplace.

GH: How optimistic are you for the future of Hong Kong as a “startup city”? out of 5 (with 5 being the highest)
ZS: 3/5

TNG (Asia) Limited

TNG is a major Hong Kong Growth Success Story.

Launched in November 2015, TNG has become Hong Kong’s #1 e-Wallet solution with over 600,000 downloads!

The TNG solution allows payment to merchants, person-to-person, bank transfers, and year-round cash withdrawals. According to Bloomberg, the company has locked in a record-breaking $115 million series A investment to accelerate expansion across Southeast Asia and South Asia.

The management team have also indicated that they want to use the investment to acquire other firms and invest in new technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital customer registration processes.

We caught up with Takis Wong (TW) who very generously answered our questions:

GH: What inspired the founders to start TNG?
TW: We were one of the top System Integrator for enterprise in Hong Kong, have been doing lots of projects in relation to payment and transaction with a high standard of securities. It’s always been a road map for us to have our own product, hence we started TNG.

GH: What would you have done different (if anything!)
TW: We’ve been heavily focusing on the product itself while hiring the right person to join the team is also critical to make it even more success.

GH: What was it that fuelled your growth?
TW: Address the very needs of the customers, the segment that had been left out from the market.

GH: How optimistic are you for the future of Hong Kong as a “startup city”? out of 5 (with 5 being the highest)
TW: 1/5

GOXIP

Goxip, is a Hong Kong based e-commerce platform designed to “search, discover, and purchase any fashion or beauty product you ever desire. The company is also revolutionary in the sense that it has also entered into FinTech space by building an in-house payment solution that supports installment payments. As of 2019, Goxip has approximately 500 merchants and over 6 million items on its list. The startup has entered into Thailand and has expansion plans in the Middle East and South Korea. The company was founded in 2016 by Juliette Gimenez and YC Lau. To date (summer 2019) the company has raised $8 million USD in three rounds of funding over the last two years. We caught up with YC Lau (YC) and asked him a bunch of questions:

GH: What inspired you to start your company?
YC: I have a bad fashion sense so we built a machine to help.

GH: What would you have done different (if anything!)
YC: Nothing!

GH: What was it that fuelled your growth?
YC: Good products.

GH: How optimistic are you for the future of Hong Kong as a “startup city”? out of 5 (with 5 being the highest)
YC: 2/5

MommyDaddyMe

MommyDaddyMe is a Hong Kong startup success story. The platform connects kids, parents, and educators on a user-friendly, “responsible” site with the intention of encouraging cultural exchanges Founded in 2016 by Javed Rahman and his wife Leslie Wang, the site also features parenting tips and workshops to develop parent-child communications. We connected with the founder, Javed N Rahman (JR) and asked him the following questions:

GH: What inspired you to start your company?
JR: Our young daughter

GH: >What would you have done different (if anything!)
JR: We would focus on revenue generation sooner and raise more money

GH: What was it that fuelled your growth?
JR: Demand for quality learning products and need for the overall development of kids

GH: How optimistic are you for the future of Hong Kong as a “startup city”? out of 5 (with 5 being the highest)
JR: 2/5

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
MommyDaddyMe will someday be a significant tech company in the world and certainly one of the largest in Hong Kong

GoGo Van ‘Radically Changed The Model’

Steven Lam Hoi-yuen, the founder of GoGoVan has the honour of being the guy behind Hong Kong’s first tech unicorn (i.e. a company with a valuation of USD 1 Billion).

Like many other examples listed within our resource Steven radically altered his business model to ensure that he provided something that “people wanted” – the same concept applies to the growth hacks behind Airbnb, Instagram, and Yelp.

The pivot that led to the growth behind GoGoVan was changing the business from selling advertisements on food takeout boxes to creating an “on-demand van hire service.”

Growth hacking in this instance is the acceptance to admit failure fast and jump onto more lucrative and unfulfilled opportunities.

Lyft ‘Pink Moustache’

Ride-sharing services Uber, Lyft and many others are nearly as ubiquitous as taxis are.

Interesting to note though that Hong Kong and Uber (and others) has not had the same impact as it has in other major cities around the world.

Lyft, in direct competition with Uber in most US cities and states, noticed that their customers were finding it hard to locate their booked drivers and the result was an awesome growth hack. Similar to the Apple Earbud visual marketing idea, Lyft has the brilliant idea of asking their drivers to append a ‘pink mustache’ to the front of their cars to make their more identifiable. The result was people pointing to the car and wondering and asking why they had ‘a pink mustache’ on their car!

Simple, but effective.

Alas, the pink mustache has been replaced with an equally cool visual piece of branding which you can read about here.

Uber ‘Shooting Fish In A Barrel’

Uber, a service which we all surely know and have very likely used, used a very nice growth hack to propel the business which owing to its’ utter simplicity is genius.

Here’s what they did: they offered free rides during the SXSW Conference for several years.

Why bother? Because the growth team realized that for a single week every year there would be tech-obsessed, high earning (mostly young) adults who’d be interested in this new ‘cab service’ (especially when they can’t find a taxi at the mega-popular SWSW event).

Here’s the growth hack: they invested a significant part of their early budget into one event which they knew there’d be a ton of people interested in their service – and it worked!

Moral of the story here is to try and find events in which your target audience will be in attendance so that you can ‘shoot fish in a barrel’.

Gmail ‘Make It Exclusive’

When Google launched gmail they already had massive respect in the Interwebs.

However, and somewhat interestingly, Google wasn’t initially very convinced about the benefits of ‘free email’, most likely because of the associated storage costs.

The Gmail growth hack was down to exclusivity.

Scarcity is a classic marketing technique and that’s the technique they adopted by building excitement and making accounts only available via invitation.

With a service like Gmail it was clear to ‘early adopters’ within the tech community that it would be wise to corner you handle as fast as you can, so think of it a bit like a ‘land grab’.

In any event, needless to say – this hack was absolutely brilliant and kickstarted the unbelievably popular Gmail service that we all use and love.

Airbnb ‘Programming Hack’

This growth hack, deployed by Airbnb, is legendary in Silicon Valley and for all global digital marketers.

Airbnb was struggling.

They had decided to ditch the breakfast element of their model and focus squarely on offering a platform in which property owners could list their properties to the public. However, registrations were not forthcoming until they launched a brilliant growth hack: leveraging the power of Craigslist.

Using sophisticated programming and tons of experimentation the tech team were able to cross-publish Airbnb listing on Craigslist, free of charge, so each time someone searched the popular classifieds section of Craigslist, listings for properties on Airbnb also showed on the page.

The moral of the story here is to always think about leveraging the existing power of a particular channel, in this case, Craigslist. The Craigslist API wasn’t that kind to the Airbnb tech team but they weren’t deterred!

Trainspotting Fact
Airbnb Founders, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk originally called their service “Air Bed And Breakfast’ because they thought to offer their customers an ‘airbed’ with ‘breakfast’.

Apple ‘White Headphones’

This one is so crazily simple and it’s utterly brilliant: Apple’s White Earbuds/ Headphones.

You can consider this as being just as much as a ‘branding hack’ as a ‘growth hack’.

Before Apple entered the scene with the iPod (1st Generation) way back in October 2001, black headphones were standard. Period. Everyone had ‘black headphones’ and that’s just the way it was. That was until Apple came along and revolutionized (and disrupted) portable music forever.

Apple’s colour even back in 2001 was white, so it was hardly surprising that they went with white as the colour of choice for their headphones.

The smart and ‘growth hacking’ thing that Apple did here was to make the visible part of their product distinctly Apple, i.e. ‘white’.

Instagram ‘Burbn’

Instagram was originally called ‘Burbn’ after the fact that founder, Kevin Systromand, was a fan of Kentucky whiskeys. Aside from that little bit of trivia, here’s the unbelievably simple growth hack that made Instagram the mega success that it became: it was all down to drilling into the analytics of what their initial users were using. That’s it. That’s all…

I’ll let this post do the explaining for what the original Instagram app did (which essentially was a ‘networking gamification thing’) but here’s the main point: it was a failure.

So, rather than be defeated, the growth team at Instagram did what every startup should be doing, i.e. constantly looking at the data.

The main researcher, a dude called Mike Krieger discovered that their users weren’t interested in all the networking stuff, but rather, they were hugely interested in using the app’s photo-sharing features.

Based upon responding exactly to what their users wanted they ditched all the crap of Burbn, doubled up on ensuring the photo sharing features worked great, added filters, relaunched it as ‘Instagram’ and, heck, the rest is history.

Again, the growth hack here is an extremely basic one: listen to what the users are doing.

Hotmail ‘I Love You, Signature Hack’

Happy to show my age here but I still have my original Hotmail account from 1995! That’s old school!

This one is a real beauty and legendary in the growth hacking community: all they did was add a sentence to the end of every email that read:

PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail

By adding sentences to each email signature sent via the Hotmail service the business soon rapidly exploded. The growth is frequently quoted in growth hacking circles because within six months they’d been able to generate over one million members! Two months later the membership doubled again and by December 1997 they had close to ten million users. Hotmail was sold to Microsoft for $400 million.

So, from launch to being sold for $400 million it took the founders thirty months.

Today it’s completely normal for a free email provider to append a message, but back then it was revolutionary.

Trainspotting Fact
Hotmail was called as such because founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith found that the word contains HTML in the brand name: HoTMailL

Yelp ‘Changed Their Model, and Explosion!’

The company founders, Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons, started Yelp in in 2004 as an “email-based referral network”.

Analyzing their usage data (much like Instagram did) showed that users were not answering requests for referrals, but instead they were primarily using the “Real Reviews” website feature, which allowed users to publish reviews.

Once they saw this data they jumped on it by ‘modernizing’ the concept of leaving reviews as well as making it much more ‘social’.

Twitter ‘Suggested People To Follow’

This one is a classic from expert growth hacker Josh Elman.

The team noticed that when users manually selected five or more people to ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ then that user was more likely to use Twitter more frequently.

So, what the team did (to huge success) was to suggest who to follow on the users feed.

Connecting with ‘like-minded’ people on Twitter or influencers that the growth team thought that that user would like to hear from boosted the stickiness of the app.

We have more on the story about how Twitter got started here, especially with reference to their initial failed launch which only generated 100 subscribers!

YouTube ‘A Dating Site? Seriously?’

Similar to the Instagram, Airbnb and GoGoVan case-studies used on this site the YouTube growth hack was also to listen to what their traffic (customers) wanted and what they were responding to.

YouTube Started Life As A Dating Site!
Seriously, this one is pretty amazing and this article does a good job explaining it probably better than I do, but the long and short of it is that the unbelievably popular video-sharing service’s initial business model was to be a ‘video dating platform!’

The original YouTube idea was for single people to make videos introducing themselves and saying what they were looking for and, ahem, no-one took to it! So, rather than quit, like any true entrepreneur, they looked for a solution, and that was to simply open it up to everything and everyone!

Cat videos then took over, as did Justin Bieber, and a ton of other YouTube celebrities.

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