Crew Unsplash Seth Doyle

What happens after 300+ views a day? 10 Discoveries (with real stats)

I stumbled upon something on June 29: posts can be discovered on the world wide web! 

Oh please, what a revelation, right? 300 views a day? That’s peanuts. It’s true, compared to leading platforms like Matador Network for travel and CrazyEgg for content marketing. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know how hard it is to get there. You’ve probably researched things like SEO (search engine optimisation), social media engagement and getting your blog discovered. The lists are many, and the transparent cases few. So I’m sharing how I got from 20+ daily views to 300+ average views a day in a month. Just as importantly, I want to share what happened to me after.

This isn’t just the typical how-to. You’ll find the tips at the bottom of each section. In addition, I’m sharing my reactions, and the impact it had on my life. This is a digital nomad and content marketing person’s in-progress diary because I believe in transparency.

An Accidental Splash

Crew Unsplash Seth Doyle

Delight! Photo cc Seth Doyle via Unsplash

The first 24-hours was just initial shock that I got something right. I made the post on an impulsive hunch within 48-hours. Other posts I struggled with for days. For the Tokyo Coffee Festival, I hacked together some photos, did minimal formatting, and shared it onto Reddit even though I never previously did such visual stuff because:

  1. I took my photos in RAW format, and I wanted to do something with them rather than have waste away in my hard drive like others have for 5 years.
  2. Every blogging tip says be visual, so may as well try.
  3. Editing photos is fun and easy to me, so it didn’t feel like work.

To be honest, the last part of putting in the links to all the participants felt like a bit of a drag. By the time I got there, I was already 90% done since the major work was cycling to the event, taking photos, and editing them afterwards. It felt more meaningful as I was editing to think that maybe these photos would make someone else happy too. I didn’t have much to lose by posting it onto the Reddit coffee forum, and woke up to an exploded page (compared to my 20-50).

Tip: Forget what you want to write or think should be written. Post what you accidentally spend hours doing and share it with your community.

Finding the Tipping Point

Transparency Travel Blog Traffic

Tokyo Coffee Photo Essay post in May vs Vancouver Coffee Post in June

Part of the traffic spike was luck. Perhaps it was the right day, right time, right something else. The other part was intentional. I was building on some data points from previous responses from friends. Posts like 12 Best Cafes in Tokyo and Settling in for Introverts got some Facebook attention and 100+ views. Those always died out after one or two days.

My hypothesis was that people liked niche topics, and needed to see collections of content. To test that, I focused only on content creation between February and May and created a list of Off-Centre Tokyo Cafes, with maps and individual reviews. By the I posted my Tokyo Coffee Festival photo essay, I had plenty of things to link to and people who visited my site could check out my coffee guides, maps, and reviews. However, the photo essay was just the starting point that inspired a new strategy. It would take a month for me to build my actual tipping point.

Tip: Not having traffic yet can be a boon. It gives you time to find your voice, get into a writing habit, and play around with cool free tools like Buffer Pablo for visuals. Once people know your site, they want to click around, so have at least 20 posts. Also, make sure you have posts scheduled for the next two weeks. Start with one a week so you give yourself lead time and your readers know you update regularly.

Cleaning Up Success.

Paints cc Ricardo Viana via Unsplash

Paints cc Ricardo Viana via Unsplash

Success is exciting, but it’s an immediate scramble to accommodate it. It’s like trying to keep intact a shack that’s attracted a flood. I finally got the breakthrough I was looking for, and I needed to keep the tide rushing in interested. As I studied the numbers, I realised people looking at my photo essay weren’t clicking the other coffee links. Instead, they were clicking my home page, then moving on to other general information about Japan.

I realised I needed to fix the links between my pages and provide more intro information. You can see the dip in my stats in June even though I kept 3-4 posts a week. I spent most of my efforts cataloguing my cafes and developing research for more lists and visual essays. Next time, I wanted to be able to keep people coming.

Tip: If you get a hit, go back and clean up all your old posts. Be prepared in the 48-hour aftermath to do a lot of links, updated Call-to-Action (CTA) items at the end of old posts, and making sure your text is aligned and your images are all standardized. I have an upcoming diary post easy quick fixes to old content.

Revenge of the Blogger.

フェブラリーカフェ February Cafe Latte Espresso Black Coffee

A or B? Go test.

It’s only luck.

That statement may become true if you don’t follow-up. Seize that moment as a learning opportunity. Since the photo essay seemed to validate my hypothesis that sometimes the most viral things are easy, low-hanging fruit, I needed to test out all the possible factors to its success.

As I was cleaning up my existing posts, I improved the visuals and layout, I also adapted my content. The data was showing that clean, easy, lists were favoured. First-time readers aren’t going to go through my 3000-word thoroughly- researched descriptions of things. Still, I began the blog to share information, and I wanted to share legit content. My real wave began with another post: 23 Best Cofee Shops in Vancouver, also released on Reddit. By then, I knew how to use Reddit and began slowly seeding all my other listicles.

The successive posts that I hypothesised would work were:

  • Lists (maps a bonus after people click)
  • Photo essays + follow-up information posts
  • Coffee
  • Japan-related info
  • Relevant to North American audiences
  • Humour

Tip: Use your first success to create a list of hypotheses of what worked. Create content to test each hypothesis.

I have no idea where I’m going.

Blogging Statistics July 2016 Transparency Open Data

End of July 2016. Orange was written in the past 6 months.

‘I have no idea what people like’, as a sentiment rises proportionally to my increasingly consistent number of ‘hit’ pieces. I’ve homed in on a few topics like coffee, anime, Japan travel tips, a bit of startup and digital nomad stuff, and a foray into food (finally). What I mean is, I get them and I don’t. Since all the pieces got over 200 views, they all passed. However, the ones I thought would be a bigger hit (say 700 views) might end up with scraping 200 with lots of extra effort; on the other hand, some that I wrote offhand surprise me the next morning with 400+ views by 8am.

Also, the pieces that I’d written off as ‘failures’ from last year weren’t so bad after all. They were just missing the right channels. My runaway success recently was ‘Top 10 Apps to Travel Japan like a Local‘, but it was written last year. On StumbleUpon, it caught a mini-fire even though I’d entirely forgotten about it.

Even if I didn’t always relate to my readers’ interests, I figured out the formats they liked:

  • Lists work.
  • Clear sections work.
  • Title then image. Not the other way around.
  • More images, less text is fine. People mind too much text more than they mind missing information that only I agonised over.

Basically, what I’m saying is, it’s okay to not really get your readers. As in a lab experiment, if A always yields B, something is working and one doesn’t need to get too flustered by not ‘getting it’. It’s a learning process, and I’m still figuring out how to take inspiration from my readers and other writers who give me feedback.

Tip: Dig up old posts for new channels. It doesn’t hurt. When you’ve run out of those, take inspiration from the communities that have responded most strongly and asked for other things.

Life Crisis

Unsplash Water Sea Swimming Christoffer Engström

Oops! Too late! Swim! Photo cc Christoffer Engström via Unsplash

I’m kidding. As I’ve settled into this higher traffic rhythm, I’ve learned to take myself less and less seriously.

In the beginning, I wanted to say what I thought was true and helpful. I wanted to write in my own style. Now, I tell people what they want to know. The blog posts weren’t meant to be pieces of literature. Actually, they’re not meant to be remotely literary. They’re just information pieces. Just get the stuff out there in a way people like.

Let’s face it. It feels good to be well received. It’s easy to get sucked in. It’s hard to remember your self-worth isn’t just defined by your new-found internet mini-success. You might find your writing style changing to fit your most responsive readers. It’s good learning, but are you a sell-out? In my case, adapting my writing to help share information better made sense. My writing doesn’t read like James Joyce, Kawabata Yasunari, or Peter Matthiessen. My readers are probably thinking, “Thank goodness”!

Tip: Have the life-crisis if necessary. Find your bottom-line, and no matter what, make sure you continue to enjoy what you do.

Owning It Means Working It

Blog Traffic Transparency Content Marketing

10,000+ views in 1 month.

Honestly, my life went to shit after I got those views. I have two part-time jobs (i.e. one full-time job) and both are in content marketing. I’m trying to be a one-woman-band doing the optimal Instagram posts, Tweets, Reddit tips, and the laundry and daily cooking. On the other hand, there’s nothing more validating than seeing that what you do directly impacts your views.

At first, I set a goal for 300+ views for one week. Then it became another, and then a month. The momentum focused my strategy and motivated me to push through certain posts.It got me thinking all the time about improving my traction.The good thing is, the goal kept me on track. Staying on track, slowly bust surely, built up to 10,000+ views within 3 weeks.

Also, constantly needing new content made me want to explore new places, which gave me a renewed interest in things I’d begun to take for granted.

In short, a small success can get the ball rolling.

Tip: Check out Kevan’s tips on how to write a blog post. The best way to get going is to change one small thing at a time. At first, it might just make your blog look better. Looking better also means more readers!

Work Smarter

Muzli Screencap

Muzli Plugin for easy navigation & design inspiration

Because I was trying to prove to myself I had figured out the right content for my readers, I was constantly thinking about how to improve my blog. On braindead evenings when I swore to watch movies, I ended up editing. For dinner, I lost interest in cooking. I had to force myself to cycle, see friends, or go for a walk without the phone because there were too many days where I was staring at the screen for 14 hours with a headache.

I decided to focus on certain channels, and automate other ones. Apart from Buffer, I did social media manually because I was OCD about the sentences, image grabs, and layout. With 3 posts a week and limited time, I focused on the channel that I liked most (Reddit) while automating my Pintrest and Tumblr posts with free tools like If This Then That (IFTTT).

Tip: Prioritise your promotion channels. Understand your highest-traffic channels. Experiment on second-tier channels to grow them. Automate posts to strategic third-tier ones. Everyone’s blog has different appropriate channels. I higly recommend these tools: If This Then That (IFTTT), Buffer or Hootsuite.

Let it Go.

Let It Go Frozen Deviant Art

Let it Go Wallpaper by AdrianImpalaMata via Deviant Art 

What am I doing after a month of this? Drop it. Okay, I didn’t turn away and slam the door, and I’d like a following-super power that I can’t hold back. Disney references aside, I have realised it’s really tiring to keep the 300+ reach mark. It was a good reach, but hitting about 200 every day isn’t bad either!

This experience has clarified my priorities: 1) to share quality information, 2) to get it to the people who need / want it.

Ultimately, in order to take my blog to the next level, I need to learn more skills than just the ones I’ve gained in the past month. I’m getting better at efficiently doing my posts and sharing them to relevant platforms, but I am also letting the numbers dip a bit as I focus on my next learning phase.

Tip: Let go of the numbers if you know you know exactly where to focus for your next growth phase. That’s not the case for every channel, such as Instagram or Facebook, where people expect regular posts. 

Next Steps.

Find the next wave! Photo cc Léa Dubedout via Unsplash

Find the next wave! Photo cc Léa Dubedout via Unsplash

This month has taught me a few things:

  • the first spike was not a fluke
  • I know (roughly) what I’m doing
  • There’s still a lot I don’t know.
  • The channels are open: I can reach the people who want my information.
  • How to format my posts faster

My next two goals are:

  1. Partnerships and guest blogging.
  2. Figuring out (finally) my e-mail list.
  3. Using my visual content to bring traffic.
  4. Cross-platform automation.

I need to be able to reach people who want my content outside my limited social circle. The best thing is to use trusted platforms with high traffic. Now that I’ve proven that my content is valuable with numbers, I can begin pitching to partners. In addition, I now need to capture my visitors to create a solid following. I have people message me and ask me about a newsletter, and yet I’ve never capitalised on this. These are the people most likely to read my content, give me feedback, and share my stuff. I should be contacting them.

Where should you start?

Tip: If you haven’t already, check out BufferCopyblogger, and other content marketing blogs that cut straight to the how-tos. You can start with this Buffer post on the formula behind a great blog post.

Many professionals take for granted their skills, so they don’t delve as much into the emotional experiences, tough decisions, internalisation of habits, and realisations. In my future posts, I will continue to share my personal journey along with the useful tips I’ve figured out along the way.

Over to you. What did you do when you hit the 100s? How did you grow it to the 1000s? Would love your tips!

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Startup & Tech
Latest Asia Travel Trends Tech Startups Founders Business Web

Asia Travel & Tech: Startups, Founders, Business Trends

These are some startup and tech company highlights from a travel conference I attended recently. Presenters came from web and marketing departments at Skyscanner, Google, Facebook, Tripadvisor, Tujia, Rome2Rio, KAYAK, AirBnb, JAL, and ANA. Below are quotes and insights about startups and product development that I found interesting. At the bottom is a list of successful web travel companies that may be good for digital nomads and remote work!

Travel’s big in North-East Asia, accounting for 163.3 million international tourist arrivals in 2014, according to the World Tourism Organisation 2015 report. In the past, travel may have been a closed industry with airlines, agents, and hospitality services as key players. The web and mobile technology have dramatically leveled the playing field, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to serve a booming tourism market for consumers and businesses.

As a traveller, I often use Tripadvisor for reviews, Skyscanner to compare flights, and AirBnB to find alternative accommodation to suit my taste. All of them emerged in the digital world. Airbnb only started in 2008, and now has 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities and 190 countries. There are even younger startups that have raised millions in investment capital from Silicon Valley (more info below).

Here are some things I found interesting. Treat it as an open diary and it’s not intended as a comprehensive survey of the travel e-commerce industry.

Melissa Yang Tujia Cofounder CTO Quote Web in Travel WIT 2016 Japan North Asia

We have to respect our investors’ each and every penny. – Melissa Yang, Tujia

Before this event, I hadn’t heard of Tujia, but Melissa Yang was the most inspiring speaker there. She was honest on stage and approachable and down to earth during breaks. People often cite China as an example of problematic IP rights, rule of law, and general lack of integrity in business products (i.e. the 2008 Chinese milk scandal). However, having worked in China before, I also believe that there are many leaders who have great work ethic and integrity. China does have examples of business savvy, visionary entrepreneurs, and this under-the-radar event showcased a great example.

Founded in 2011, Tujia is generally summarized as China’s AirBnB. However, their business began as B2B managing real estate for clients, before moving to B2C, and finally the C2C market. They built their brand by addressing the trust issue that clients had, both from the supply and demand side by managing real estate directly before building out the platform and placing their listings. Their current evolution into the AirBnB of China is a result of their opening up the platform for C2C users. They’ve raised 4 rounds of investing, with USD 455 Million funds, and are hailed as the latest Chinese unicorn.

Melissa Yang Tujia Cofounder CTO Quote Web in Travel WIT 2016 Japan North Asia

Don’t raise money you don’t need. – Melissa Yang, Tujia

Co-Founder Melissa Yang is a former executive of travel company Expedia and in Microsoft’s search engine division. She founded Tujia.com with Justin Luo who was co-president of a major Chinese real estate media company Sina Leju.

Erika Nakayama Google Online Travel

We must earn our customers, moment by moment. – Erika Nakayama, Google

Google is launching its Travel Assistant. Their travel services already include flight searches and automatic Google calendar updates.

She broke down micro-moments into the dream, plan, book, experience categories. Next, she showed how increasing searches were for destinations. Based on Google data, 78% of users did not have a specific airline in mind and 82% didn’t have a hotel brand in mind.

Erika Nakayama from Google noted that in the age of digital fragmentation, moments are thin-sliced. She demoed how Google increasingly made information visual (i.e. locations with images), which improved searches for locations. In addition, she showed the new features for Travel Assistant, such as integrated scheduling and transit suggestions. Its comprehensive features can be a serious challenge to many players currently tapping into micro services for travellers.

Erika Nakayama Google Online Travel

People are more loyal to the me in this moment than they are to brands today. – Erika Nakayama, Google

In a discussion panel on Korea’s rising e-commerce, startup, and travel industries, Debby Soo, Vice President APAC at KAYAK, discussed the challenges and opportunities of entering the North Asian market a few years after Skyscanner. She mentions that people often speak of Asia as one market when, they are, in reality, many markets. Hong Kong is different from China, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan.

The event also opened my eyes to the number of big players in parts of the industry such as real estate and accommodation. Sunny Chang from BnB Hero indicated that in the shifting accommodation and e-commerce landscape, each company has a different target market and unique value proposition that can be complimentary.

A great startup story: three years ago, Daily Hotel didn’t even make it to the final for WIT Travel’s startup pitches. Now, they are funded by Sequoia Capital and presenting on stage.

Web in Travel WIT 2016 Japan North Asia Hoshinoya Resort Hoshino Yoshinaru

Yoshiharu Hoshino, President of Hoshino Resort Group after a panel presentation

Since family businesses are important in Japan and East Asia, WIT 2016 hosted an insightful panel discussion.

Yoshiharu Hoshino, President of Hoshino Resort Group notes, ‘65% inbound tourism in 5 prefectures, 80% in 10 prefectures.’ For many family ryokan businesses, even chains,  have n0 inbound tourism and so the increasing inbound travel to Japan cannot have a successful trickle down until travellers venture to local areas. In addition, he noted the importance of maintaining quality for the domestic market, which comprises roughly 80% of accommodation sales.

Mr. Hoshino believes that family businesses can double profits in Japan more easily than changing large corporations. He was born in 1960 in Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture, and expanded his family business, the HOSHINOYA onsen and hotel brand beyond his hometown. It now has 32 locations throughout Japan.

Web in Travel WIT 2016 Japan North Asia IBM Watson

IBM Watson in video demo interacting with a guest – Courtesy of IBM presentation

IBM demoed IBM Watson, the robot that will be the future assistant throughout the world. IBM Watson can people navigate Japan, do shopping, plan trips. It already has English and Japanese support.

Morris Sim Circos Brand Karma Virtual Reality

Virtual reality may be the most humane technology to come out. – Morris Sim, Circos Brand Karma, CEO & Co-Founder

Web in Travel WIT 2016 Japan North Asia

One of JAL’s features is automated check-in for people running late – Courtesy of JAL presentation

JAL showed how airlines can use leverage e-commerce to create services that cater to customers’ travel needs. Their use of e-commerce started in 1995 with a website, and online ticket sales since 1996. Since then, JAL (and ANA’s) services have extended to online check-in, packaged deals, taxi services, automated web drop offs at domestic airports. Their major domestic booking is 50%+ web-based and a registered user who is late to the airport can even get a ticket automatically upon arrival as they’re walking to the gate. That’s service!

The Chinese travel market was also a hot topic. China’s traveller behaviour is changing. They typically travel in May or October during the long holidays. They may no longer book package tours. Instead, they are looking increasingly at short-haul holiday destinations, and Japan is the #1 destination.

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Trip Advisor sharing increased searches to places outside – Image courtesy of Trip Advisor Presentation

Trip Advisor shared data from March 2015 and 2016 on searches prefectures in Japan. I was happy to learn travellers were becoming more adventurous, as I feel the best places in Japan are the small towns few people have heard of. The greatest increases were Ishikawa and Ibaraki. Other places outside of Tokyo were Toyama, Tottori, Shimane, which I’ve already visited and loved. I have mixed feelings about growing popularity for places like Kanazawa, which is steeped in well-preserved history, comes with modern city amenities, and none of the Tokyo or Kyoto egos. For adventurers, the Hokurikyu Shinkansen goes from Tokyo to Kanazawa.

I am encouraged so many web companies big and small (including the startups that pitched) are aiming to serve travellers through immersive experiences and meaningful cultural exchanges. I am also happy to see most of these companies come from Asia, and if global have a deep appreciation for the diversity in the Asian markets. Too often in startup events, the focus of discussion shifts to comparing with Silicon Valley tech companies. This didn’t happen. Instead, the business of travel had a strong undertone of understanding customers and cultures.

Does this pique your curiosity? Check out the cool travel companies that attended the Web in Travel 2016 North Asia conference and hunt for job opportunities:

 

If you liked this post, check out my list of Startup Jobs in Asia.

 

Startup & Tech
Startup and Tech Jobs in Asia

Startup Jobs in Asia: Opportunities Under The Radar

Startup and Tech Jobs in Asia

This is a consolidated directory of startup, tech, remote work, and digital nomad friendly jobs in Asia. The listings below focus on East and South-East Asia, namely China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. 

Asia’s has many diverse markets that are all exciting, fast-paced, innovative and challenging in unique ways. Companies big and small are seeking  innovative, passionate, and dynamic talents. If one of these places has always fascinated you, check out the opportunities and make a few applications. Better yet, hop on a one-way flight. Whether Bangkok, Bangalore, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, or Shanghai, you’ll find opportunities just by arriving and getting involved.

My Story

I arrived in Hong Kong 7 years ago, fresh out of undergraduate and in the thick of the 2008 financial crisis without any job leads. Despite sending out close to fifty job applications, I only got one interview. Fortunately, that one interview was enough: that company liked me, I liked them, and there were good terms. I started with them and stayed in the company for two years. At the time, the market seemed small with only JobsDB as one of the only somewhat user-friendly sites out there. I hadn’t even heard of Asian startups at the time and smartphones weren’t event a thing (Apple had just released the iPhone 3G).

I am now based in Tokyo because this is the next place I want to live as a digital nomad after Hong Kong, Shenzhen, London, and travelling to over 30 countries in Asia and Europe. I found a tech and travel company that I love within a month, and got a job within three months. I still have connections to get contract work in Asia when time allows. In a life of moving around, this is quite a stable set up!

Since I started out, access to information is much more easy. The sites listed below are less than 5 years old, but are already established authorities and many even have apps.

The best news is, there are even more jobs in these places than the lists show. What are you waiting for? Hop on a plane and take the dive!

Pan-Asia Startup Jobs (English)

  1. Angelist
    1. https://angel.co/asia
    2. Hong Kong Jobs
    3. Tokyo Jobs
    4. Singapore Jobs
    5. Malaysia Jobs
    6. China Jobs
    7. Taiwan Jobs
    8. Asia Jobs
  2. e27 (English) https://e27.co/
  3. RemoteOK https://remoteok.io/
  4. Startup Database Asia https://www.startupdb.asia/
    Covers Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia
  5. Startup Jobs Database Asia http://startupjobs.asia/
  6. Startup Jobs Asia http://startupjobs.asia/
  7. F6S Jobs with Tokyo / China tags: https://www.f6s.com/jobs
  8. Tech Me Abroad https://techmeabroad.com
    Not that many Asia jobs, but occasionally some interesting ones.

Hong Kong-based Startup / Tech Job Boards

  1. Startbase (English) http://startbase.recruit.net/
    Hong Kong
  2. 88-Gong (English) http://www.88-gong.com/
    Hong Kong & Asia Pacific

China-based Startup & Tech Platforms

  1. Lagou (Chinese) http://www.lagou.com/
  2. 36氪36kr (Chinese) http://36kr.com/
    China’s top startup listings
  3. IT桔子 ITjuzi (Chinese) https://www.itjuzi.com/
    China Startup Database

Japan-Based Startup & Tech Job Boards

  1. Japan’s leading tech-oriented job board https://en-jp.wantedly.com/
  2. Justa (English / Japanese) https://justa.io/en
  3. Job Draft (Japanese) https://job-draft.jp/

*Note: Japan’s market often uses recruiters for their domestic market. English-only jobs are quite limited (often to teaching).

Singapore, Malaysia, South-East Asia Startup Job Boards

  1. Singapore Startup List http://singapore.startups-list.com/
  2. Jobstreet http://www.jobstreet.com/

Taiwan Startup & Tech Job Boards and Platforms

  1. 178人力銀行 (Chinese) http://www.job178.com.tw/
  2. BNext Taiwan (Chinese) http://www.bnext.com.tw/
  3. Easy Startup Taiwan簡單創 (Chinese) http://ezstartup.com.tw/
  4. Inside (Chinese) https://jobs.inside.com.tw/
  5. PunNode (Chinese) https://panx.asia/
    PunNode Global (English) http://global.punnode.com/
  6. Startup@Taipei (English) http://www.startup.taipei/home?lang=en
    Startup@Taipei (Chinese) http://www.startup.taipei/
  7. Sudo (Chinese) https://sudo.com.tw/
  8. TechOrange 科技報橘 (English / Chinese) http://buzzorange.com/techorange/

 

If you have good start up & tech job leads in Asia (English or native languages) please get in touch!

If you liked this post and happen to be in Japan, check out my 19 Tips to get startup jobs in Japan.

*Banner Photo Credit: From Flickr by Moyan Brenn (cc)

Startup & Tech
Startup and Tech Jobs in Tokyo

Startup Jobs in Tokyo: 19 Leads You May Have Missed

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Japan’s start-up scene is definitely up and coming. While it is much more international than other industries in Japan, most of the events are still geared towards Japanese speakers. I developed a list geared towards professionals, digital nomads, and global citizens who want to work in Japan but have not mastered Japanese to a business level.

In this list, you’ll find:

  1. Content: Written by locals who are either startup founders and/or developers in Japan. They offer candid and practical advice for people who want to get jobs.
  2. Job Boards: Ones with English job listings
  3. Events: Regular events to meet people in
  4. Conferences: International industry events (with price tags attached)

1) Great Content

If you’re thinking about coming to Japan, it’s worthwhile to do a bit of background reading to get yourself acquainted with both the place and the startup & developer culture. This list is by no means exhaustive – just my personal favourites.

The Bridge

Masaru Ikeda (writer of the Tokyo Startup Digest) and his team are writing about Japan’s apps, startups, and tech industry in Japanese and English. Get an idea of which teams to join in their English features section!

Disrupting Japan

Disrupting Japan is a series of interviews hosted by Tim with Japanese founders who are growing their ventures and disrupting Japan. It’s a refreshing insight into what’s going on to address many of the issues on the ground.

Tokyo Dev by Paul McMahon

Paul is the co-founder of Doorkeeper.jp, the leading event-booking platform in Japan. He’s part of the handful of tech founders such as Jason Winder (MakeLeaps), Patrick Mckenzie (Starfighter and Kalzumeus) whom have made Japan their home. He has some articles sharing tips on how to find work for developers.

Danny Choo

Danny is the founder of the Smart Doll. His blog’s called ‘Culture Japan’, but he has some insightful and candid pieces on how he built his career and company in Japan as a foreigner. He also has a great post about doing a good resume, and he shows his as an example.

Kalzumeus

Patrick isn’t a startup guy per-se, but he’s started several successful small businesses and consulting service. He also has an open-door policy to help developers and startup people. He has written some of the best content that I’ve seen for freelancers, talking salary, and technical pieces on A/B testing, SEO, and product development.

2) Job Boards

Wantedly

Wantedly is a clean startup-oriented Angelist-cross-LinkedIn with an English interface. Most of the jobs are in Japanese, but it’s still worthwhile to make an account in case you get scouted! You can specify your searches to include ‘English’ or ‘Foreign Nationalities Welcome’.

Justa

Justa is a clean job board with a fair number of opportunities from local and international firms (I’ve seen Booking.com and Pintrest on there). The Japanese opportunities still outnumber the English ones, but there are enough options.

Career Cross

This is a general job platform, but there are plenty of developer job listings.

GaijinPot

This is one of the leading job platforms and web portals for life in Japan. Definitely worth a check out!

e27

This is an Asian Tech and startups job board.

Angelist

This go-to for startup jobs only has a handful for Japan, but they do get updated, so it’s worth checking once in a while. Note that sometimes the searches for ‘Japan’ and ‘Tokyo’ are different, so you should try both.

88 Gong

Since this site is Hong Kong focused, it only has a handful of jobs for Japan, but the upside is that the companies that do list there are probably more out-of-the-box.

3) Events and Meetups:

Tokyo Startup Circle – Boostrap Meetup

Organized by the Tokyo Startup Circle, Bootstrap Lunch happens ever 2 weeks in Shibuya at the Fab Cafe. As the name suggests, the event is for people interested in bootstrapping their business (think Lean Startup Methodology). Make sure you register Register on Doorkeeper by clicking on the link above. They take place every second Saturday of the month.

Hacker News Meetup

Hacker News is Y-Combinator’s news section. It’s organized by the founders of Make Leaps, one of Japan’s successful startups. The event is casual (with some presentations and more focus on socialising) and usually well attended. It’s hosted at Super Deluxe once a month.

Startup Weekend Tokyo

Startup Weekend has been around in Tokyo since 2009 and has taken on a local flavour since. Rather than going to all the events, look specifically for the “International Startup Weekend” events that use English. Regular startup weekend events happen each month. The English ones take place every few months.

Mobile Monday

MoMo is one of Tokyo’s longest running tech events (10+ years). The events are fairly frequent, but not always on a Monday. Since mobile and startups have a big overlap, it’s no surprise many founders are here, even though it appeals to an even wider audience.

UX Talk Tokyo

Even though UX can be applied to big and small companies, this event still attracts a fair number of people from the startup ecosystem (designers, developers, etc.). It’s hosted at the Gengo offices. Presentations are done in English and there are snacks provided. There’s a 500 JPY entry fee. It’s usually held monthly.

Ride the Lightning

This is an event that brings designers and developers together. The presenters mostly come from the startup circles and present on pretty interesting projects. It’s not just a pitch platform; since they’re usually fairly early stage, there’s a lot of audience interaction. They also serve Japanese craft beer. They’re hosted by the AQ Office every few months, but used to be once per month, so check often since they’re capped at 50 people.

FuckUp Nights Tokyo

Fuck Up Nights is hosted by the Tokyo Impact HUB in Meguro with presentations from founders on their not-so-successful ventures. The Impact HUB is a nice space to work out of, so consider doing that for a bit and get to know the entrepreneurs who share their offices.

Rubyist Meetups

They happen usually on the 2nd Thursday of every month and are usually themed, with pre-scheduled topics and guest presenters for the first hour, and an open-networking for the remaining 2 hours. They’re usually once per month on Thursday evenings.

Tokyo iOS Meetups

This Meetup group has both presentations for their monthly events and study groups. They’re also open to members suggesting a meetup, so if you want to meet people try sending them a message! They’re usually at the Shibuya First Place on the 8/F 渋谷ファーストプレイス (8F), but make sure you check when you sign up.

Tokyo Linux Users Group

They’ve been having meetups since 1994 and still have Nomikai regularly. They’re mostly social events. Register using Doorkeeper. They usually happen every 2 or so months

Dev Japan Meetups

Caven basically hosts these out of his office at KDDI to help people motivate each other to work. You can bring your own food and snacks! They happen on weekends.

Founder Institute Events

The Institute has a fair number of free events in addition to their flagship is a 4-month program for start-up founders. Check their schedule.

4) Conferences

There are some pretty big international tech and startup conferences that happen annually in Tokyo. Unsurprisingly, the tickets are priced for businesses, but if you’re curious, have a look:

If you liked this post, check out my list of startup and tech jobs in Asia.

 Photo Credits to Mark Esguerra via Flickr cc.
Startup & Tech

In Conversation With: Annie from Helping Hands

20150515 Yangon - Helping Hands Annie-3982

In the sultry heat of Yangon’s afternoon, I walked down windy streets flanked with food stalls, garbage collection carts, and leafy palms. I was on my way to meet Annie. She’s been key to several social businesses such as Helping Hands Yangon and the first local artisan-goods shop, Pomelo. I walk through the wide open gates into a mansion with a portico, pool, and well-kept garden palms and flowers. The lanky boys in t-shirts too big for them are busy kicking around a football. The carpenter is sprawled over the table he is finishing and young lads here and there march purposefully through the lawn. I invite myself into the cool shade of the wide-open entrance. The women working on the sewing machines look up, smile politely and go back to work, relaxed and without any pressure to please.

I can hear a full voice echoing through from a back room – it’s Annie, with a deluge of enthusiastic words with the person hidden by the doorway. Annie turned this spacious building into the homey headquarters of 3 NGO’s / businesses that work with society’s cast-offs: street kids, ex-addicts, single mothers, and mentally handicapped individuals. She greets me, asks if I want a drink, and apologises for being a few more minutes with a few matters.

By the time I’ve browsed through her collection of books in the dining room, she hands me a cup of coffee and suggests we go upstairs to have our chat.

After we settle in to the rattan chairs, Annie recounts her experiences in Yangon on the veranda overlooking the driveway and garden. My intended hour-long interview spills into the evening. Her initially planned 2-year stay is reaching its 7th year, and in that time she’s learned that the locals are as sick of the abundant teak as foreigners are crazy about it. This, and many other discoveries, became small personal projects that mushroom into entire organisations.

This wasn’t quite the intention. Annie’s original approach was solving one problem at a time. That included researching finishing that goes well on teak and whether it is possible to source it in Myanmar. As she worked with the craftsmen who could fix the furniture, she looked into setting up a business and eventually, the business needed a place to operate. This teak refurbishing business was borne out of an initial desire to purchase decent furniture. One person’s problem is usually someone else’s challenge too. Annie’s personal project grew into a partnership and business as demand for furniture grew.

At the same time demand for Helping Hands textiles made by Burmese artisan communities also grew. Annie and a business partner opened Pomelo as a store to help travellers and local foreigners find the goods made by Burmese artisan groups. As a social business, the store operates on a model where the artisans, rather than the shop, keep majority of the profits from the sales.

Every one of these self-sustaining NGOs / social enterprises started with a personal encounter, an individual’s curiosity, and tenacious persistence in finding a solution. As the teams of carpenters, seamstresses, and artisans grew, Annie came to better understand their family and social situations (read, challenges). In a lengthy, yet personalised, process she has come up with creative solutions such as free housing for a single mother who could not afford to pay rent and raise 5 kids. The agreement is that the single mother leaves two spare rooms for other street kids that are employed by these social businesses. This is only one of many individual, unique, cases where Annie took a risk and went with an unorthodox solution with real impact – and built trust. None of the single mothers whom have stayed in that flat have caused problems, and instead it became their stepping stone to employment and building a family livelihood.

Coming from a background in impact investing, one of the things I always think about is scale. Is an organisation structured to scale? Is there market potential for expansion? How can the impact be even more tightly woven with profits for long-term sustainability? You cannot scale giving keys to an apartment – the personal due diligence is too high. However, on that afternoon as I questioned Annie about why each tailored, solution worked in that context, I couldn’t help but admire the organic, but solid, foundations upon which she built her relationships amongst locals as equals.

In the startup world, we often we often take for granted that some stranger is willing to try our new app because there is already an infrastructure (such as the law) that help facilitate trust, even in the strangers behind the website. Yes, it may be frustrating that an entrepreneur in Myanmar cannot rush ahead as they do in Silicon Valley and expect people to jump on the band wagon for an idea. Yet, on the other hand, isn’t it also a reminder to ask ourselves questions like ‘How am I helping solve this person’s immediate problems by asking them to work with me? Do I understand and appreciate their priorities? How can I guarantee I can help them meet those needs? How can give them confidence and earn their trust with my actions?’

Walking into the house that afternoon, it was clear no-one was keeping a hawk’s eye of who was doing what amongst the 50 or so people around. But on the other hand, they didn’t have to.

20150515 Yangon - Helping Hands Annie-3984

The sewing machine that made the bags sold at Pomelo.

Startup & Tech

In conversation with: Kay Strasser

Kay Strasser

It was still a numbingly hot afternoon by the time we wandered out around 2pm to find food around Kandawgyi Lake. Right inside the entrance gate of a posh German institute is a roadside food stall, run by a family that is / used to be guards for the mansion.

Kay, German-Burmese by heritage, had just returned a few days prior from a trip to the conflict-ridden, hilly, and isolated northern Chin state, where he had gone to discover local education innovators. Apart from riding broken and muddy paths (no roads), and sleeping in huts, he tells the stories of a monastery school with 7000+ students and fitted with the likes of a woodworking studio, a school principal in Kalemyo who grew her class from her home to 300+ students, and university students who opened their own informal classes and buy cakes for the 60 odd kids they teach.

Lunch on the Street in Yangon

Sitting in the low chairs of the food stall, stuffed, and in the comfort of the shade, we kept pouring tea, sipping, and chatting away the afternoon.

His next mission? To further his research by driving a modified truck / bus through these isolated areas to connect and support the communities and leaders he’s met. You can find out more on his Facebook page and his project Ongoi.ng.

*Note: All profiles are personal conversations I have with fascinating and inspiring people, and not sponsored or solicited.*

Kay Strasser is a photographer, Intuitive Hacker, Co-Founder of Ongoi.ng

Startup & Tech

In conversation with: Benjamin Taghavi-Awal

Benjamin from Fair Travel Tanzania
While I was sipping an ice coffee and filling out my Myanmar visa application, a solitary fellow came along on a bicycle under the full might of the noon-time sun. He was more intrigued by makerspace just beside the cafe to notice the heat, and I was intrigued enough to stop my application.

It turns out Ben is a proud social entrepreneur based in Tanzania. When he climbed Kilimanjaro years ago, as a tourist, he was so frustrated by how little the porters were paid in relation to how much he had to pay for his trip that he began his own agency. His company, structured as a non-profit, works with 50+ porters and pays them fair living salaries so that they do not have to rely on tips. Additional profits go to environmental conservation of the areas that travellers visit, ensuring that future travellers can enjoy the same breathtaking experiences.
Even though we only chatted for an hour before I had to catch my flight, we covered everything from good governance, attracting talent, financial structuring, salaries, sustainability models, and of course travel.What’s he up to next? Setting up another fair travel service.

*Note: All profiles are personal conversations I have with fascinating and inspiring people, and not sponsored or solicited.*

Benjamin Taghavi-Awal is the Founder of Fair Travel Tanzania
Startup & Tech