“What were the biggest challenges that you faced when you started your business?”
1. Adapting to the High Energy, Fast-paced Environment
One of the most difficult things after defining the vision we had for Art of Click (AOC) was to come up with the appropriate marketing, product and sales strategies to ensure the company’s success. In business, and even more so for a startup, adaptability is a key factor to survival and growth. Thus, it was and still is, vital for us to constantly improve and develop strategies according to the market evolution.
I remembered having to tailor the strategies almost every quarter of the first two years just to keep up with the ever-changing market, especially when it was growing with new competitors every day.
For example, back in 2016, when ad fraud alone incurred 7 billion dollars’ worth of loss in the industry, we realized the need for transparency and clear return on ad spending.
As a result, we had to similarly tackle this issue by using that external threat and turning it into an opportunity to maintain our competitive edge by developing our own technology: The Art of Shield, a powerful fraud detection tool that has proven its efficiency.
2. Dealing with Uncertainty
When I first launched AOC, I had to accept that there would be days when I would need to make personal sacrifices, even without the certainty that my efforts will one day be rewarded. Working throughout the day and night became a daily routine.
Sometimes we had to remind ourselves to not be too quick to consider it a success when a client was willing to give us a huge budget to work with. We had to continuously keep in mind that budgets come and go every day.
When a company grows, those ups and downs turn from daily occurrences, to weekly and even monthly, but at the end of the day, experiencing and working through such highs and lows is essential in bringing sustainability to a company.
3. Picking the Right Team
Once my company was created, I needed to surround myself with qualified and motivated people. I think it’s one of the biggest challenges that I faced by far. I was confronted with two concurrent problems:
Attracting people being a startup. It’s only natural that potential employees would be more interested in working in a bigger and more established company. And our only solution then was to come up with strong arguments to convince them to take up a new challenge where I in turn, would trust that they would deliver to the best of their abilities.
Finding profiles which perfectly matches the company’s needs. At the start, I had to closely determine my strengths and weaknesses to select those whom I believed would be able to not just complement but to also compensate for the areas I was lacking in.
For example, I graduated with a master’s in engineering and had a digital/ advertising background. So back then, I was looking for someone who had the capabilities and skills to handle the technical aspects to develop our platform. And I was fortunate enough to find the perfect co-founder, who similarly shares the same vision I had for AOC.
It is also important for us to find that perfect balance between the number of employees and the current success of the company to ensure that no resources are wasted in the process.
“What is your best advice for someone that wants to build a business in Singapore?”
My best advice for someone that wants to start a business are:
1. Ensure Clients’ Satisfaction:
As Series A fundings are scarce, it’s a better option to focus on funds coming from clients’ revenue instead of Series A’s Venture Capital firms. Back when the company was newly established, I saw the importance of making clients my number one priority.
Treat each and every one of them as equally important; one should not disregard the possibility that a client who started out investing with a small budget, may well end up be one of the company’s biggest revenue providers down the road.
Bottomline is, it’s a lot more worthwhile to pursue client’s budgets than VC cash.
2. Utilize Government Support:
Do not be afraid to seek help and to fully utilize on what is provided or is made available around you. In Singapore, we are lucky to have a government who supports birth startups and are willing to assist such companies during their key moments – be it by providing grants or mentorship. So if you are launching a tech startup especially, do consider enquiring on that.