Check it out at www.NewMe.me
This is a report coming from across the world! Allen Wong and his good friend Bruce are working on their latest creation, NewMe; a social platform for people to come together to create and share challenges. Users can either take a challenge designed by others, or start something just for themselves or their team. Users can also comment on each other’s challenge, cheering them on, or helping them find more effective means of achieving their challenge.
We started our conversation over Skype, at 8pm CET time, closer to 2am (CST time) for Allen and his roommate. Close to bedtime? Not at all! They were hard at work; implementing design updates and tweaking the code of their innovative site.
So Allen, tell us about your team, is it just you and Bruce? “Yep, that’s everyone! I do a lot of the design and creative work and he focuses on back-end programming”, he tells us. Sounds like a great deal of responsibility for the two of you, creating this entire project from scratch just by yourselves! So how did you meet and what made you want to create a concept like NewMe?
“Well, we were working at the same company in the past and that’s when our common interest really became visible…we wanted to create something which really helped people achieve more in life.” I asked Allen to elaborate on what he meant with helping people achieve more, and he was quick to answer, “You know, so many people are addicted to video games, mobile games and social networks…I think there’s a better way to spend time.” He told us about how often he hears people say that they are working on making goals but that little is ever done with those goals; “People get distracted…or worse, lazy!” Allen tells us that essentially they wanted to combat this issue, and their belief was strong, as they quit their jobs and began working on NewMe full-time.
FROM THE BEGINNING
Allen quickly chimes in with how it all started. “I came up with the original idea because I needed to learn coding in order to consider starting my own business. My expertise is product design and back then I knew nothing about the world of coding.” He explains how he was always interested in hackers; those who can build and market websites and applications all by themselves. “At that time”, he told StartupCatchup, “I thought I should simply quit my job and go and build my own start-up with my partner Bruce.” But did you already have a concept in your mind? Or were you planning on ‘just quitting’ and taking it from there, like starting with a clean slate? “Actually”, Allen says, “my heart already wasn’t in my previous work.” He explains how his previous company was asking him to copy designs of other companies, essentially taking away his creativity. “I didn’t want to do it anymore, there’s too much copying in China as it is, from clothes, to watches, to electronics, and that’s when I decided it was time to leave and learn coding myself before starting anything.” So how did your wanting to learn how to code allow you to come up with NewMe? “Well, Bruce and I decided that time was of the essence, so we needed to move quickly and keep the passion alive to do our own thing.” So this is where the Challenge concept came about? “Exactly, I set up a crazy challenge to learn how to code within 7 days with Bruce’s help.” Not a lot of time to learn coding! “True, but it allowed us to realize the feasibility of such an idea as a website by itself. It didn’t have to be coding; it could be cooking, learning to swim, or writing a diary.
WHAT’S FEEDBACK BEEN LIKE?
“It’s our first project, but we hit 100 users within 3 days of launching the site.” That’s amazing, how did you promote? Did you use paid advertising? “Not at all, just by using Twitter to let everyone know about our site, as well as telling our friends.” And what has the general response been to user experience and the general concept? “We received a lot of feedback, some loved it, and others made suggestions on how to make it better.” What kind of suggestions did you get? “Well, when we started, we focused on solid Need-To-Do-Every-Day challenges, instead of things that aren’t necessarily the same every day.” Can you give me an example? “Take fitness for example. If someone does a fitness challenge, maybe they start with Day 1: Do 100 sit-ups, Day 2: Go for a long run, Day 3: Recover, Day 4: Swim 20 laps, etc.” Good point to consider!
And have you received any other feedback, like maybe a request to make this a mobile app? “Yes, we received a couple of emails about making this available as an app, we’re looking into it but right now the focus is on finishing this as a web app as most people said they would be happy just logging into the site on their computers instead of phones.” Sounds like good feedback early on, then! “Yeah, and since we’re constantly working on it, it’s easier to make changes and incorporate ideas that way, keeping it up to date.”
How are you funding this venture? Is it funded by yourselves? “Correct, we have no outside funding, but to be honest we don’t really need it. All we have are hosting costs…oh, and food of course!” Wow, talk about bootstrapping! But it must be great to be able to work on your own project on your own timeframe and terms. “Absolutely, the freedom to do what we want in that sense is very liberating.”
What about partnering up, have you considered that? “We have”, Allen said, “Services like CodeAcademy and Treehouse are great websites to teach people the specifics of actually learning how to code.” So basically you can learn how to code on those sites and then keep track of your progress on NewMe? “Exactly, either in a timeline or diary entry on our site, it’s easy to use together.” Have you already approached these companies or similar ones to partner up? “Actually, we’re thinking more of a Spotlight feature, so people can link to those sites and come back to ours to make the progress entries”
WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY LIKE?
“Well, I spend about 10-16 hours a day on the site; talking with people, brainstorming new ideas, and getting the updates out there.” What do your friends think of the site? “The ones who understand English love it; we haven’t made the Chinese language feature yet because of possible issues with regulations but we hope to be able to release one in the future.” Well, sounds like you’re hard at work getting the site out there as it is, “Absolutely, working everything out takes a long time, but we’re getting there.”
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
What piece of advice can you give those people who are already working on their own startup and who are looking to gain some exposure? “Well, the way I think of it is, they should do anything in their power to connect with their users first, not the media or investors”, he said quickly. “I answer emails, use Twitter, and talk with friends and even founders of similar sites to find a way to learn from or cooperate with them.” So that links up with the previous question of Partnering Up, do you have specific examples of founders you managed to connect with? “Sure, via Twitter actually, I connected with the founder of my30dc (My 30 Day Challenge), so hopefully we can partner up at some stage.” Good news!
So would you say Twitter is your advised social media for startups? “For me it is, it’s an easy way to reach start-up founders, everyone is on there nowadays.” Great advice! Well thanks for your time and the best of luck to the both of you! I think I might start a challenge…hmmm….Day 1: Think of a Challenge!