EP 315 – Nathaniel Yim – Founder at Nila Studios – You Cannot Sell What You Don’t Understand

by | Feb 28, 2024

The Asia Tech Podcast was joined by ⁠Nathaniel Yim⁠, the Founder of ⁠Nila Studios⁠ and a non-executive co-Founder of ⁠Janio Asia⁠. When Nathaniel asserted during our recording, "You cannot sell what you don't understand.", it really resonated with me. When you understand your products and their impact on customers, your enthusiasm, confidence, and sincerity shine through naturally.

Some of the topics that Nathaniel covered:

  • Understanding your product’s value proposition and the problems it solves for customers
  • How customer empathy enables deep customer connections and fosters trust and credibility
  • The critical role of content creation and leveraging networks in building brand visibility
  • The importance of aligning marketing efforts with sales objectives
  • The significant impact of personal branding and founder influence

Some other titles we considered for this episode, but ultimately rejected:

 
  1. Whatever You Publish, Make Sure It Is Really Good
  2. You Just Have to Rise to the Occasion
  3. Infantry Is Like Sales
  4. That Opened up My Eyes to the Possibilities of Entrepreneurship 
  5. You Have to Learn Everything and Do Everything
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:04
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech podcast. Nathaniel Yim is with us today, a Director of Nila Studios. Nathaniel, thank you so much for coming to the show. Can we give the listeners a little bit of your background for some context?

Nathaniel Yim 0:21
Thanks, Michael. It’s great to be here. Hi, everybody. My name is Nathaniel. As Michael has said, I am the director of Nila Studios, which is a B2B marketing studio based in Singapore and working with SMEs and startup founders to grow their business by way of b2b marketing. Prior to starting the law studios, I was a co founder of a B2C cross border logistics tech company called Janio, where I was there for close to six years, running marketing, sales and operations. Before that, I was a undergraduate at the National University of Singapore studying business, where I specialized in finance initially, and then I dropped it and switched to marketing, which kind of set me up very nicely for January, which then again, set me up very nice, deep on your studios.

Michael Waitze 1:08
So you also recently worked speaking at NUS. Is that Is that true? Yes. Just a week ago, do you often go back to school to teach us that’s something that you enjoy doing, particularly in the context of everything that you’ve you’ve experienced since you graduated? Yeah.

Nathaniel Yim 1:24
Yeah, I write often. So I tend to do guest lectures at NUS. Some of my professors during my undergraduate days, invited me to come back and share my experiences and marketing and building the startup with the undergraduate recently if the masters students, so happy to give bang, I gained quite a lot when I was an undergrad. So it’s a form of me just you know, like paying it forward. I do that for SMU as well, genuine was incubated in the SMU startup program. One of our co founders is from SMU, we decided to go there because of certain things like location and other criteria. So we were there in 2018, as incubatees graduated from the incubator program. And last year, I went back as a mentor to help mentor the next batch of the next generation of startup founders. Yep.

Michael Waitze 2:16
So I’ve just for the listeners in the United States, SMU is not Southern Methodist University in Singapore management university. But I do like the fact that you’re so confident about it that you just like throw out the acronym, because in this region SME is very well known. I want to talk about this too. What was the benefit, because I was having a long conversation with somebody about this yesterday, right, a founder who’s like struggling with a few aspects of like building a thing, I think he’s got a great product. But he’s just not able to get kind of like the tech over the line. Like that’s his big thing. So I said to him, go to an incubation program. But a good one is really good. Maybe you can talk to him about what the benefits were for you and for your co founder of being an incubation program, stuff that maybe got for lack of a better term accelerated that may have taken you longer to do if you didn’t go through the program.

Nathaniel Yim 3:03
Perhaps this is more representative of the the those run by universities. Okay, I’m not sure if it’s like the same for all incubators. But I will say that the main benefits would be firstly, you get access to resources that otherwise you as a, perhaps as a first time founder, without a network, as was my case, I was basically a fresh graduate and didn’t know anything, anyone. You get access to a network, right network of mostly out of startup founders who are going through the same kind of challenges as you. So that’s like a peer community that you can rely on. Yeah, you have mentors, people, like the academic staff who have connections with industry, you have industry professionals who volunteer their time to share about different topics like marketing, fundraising, sales, etc. So you get expertise, you also get access to potential investment opportunities, right, because most incubators would have some kind of network with perhaps angels or venture capital firms, or SMU, they have a pitch night at the end of every cohort where venture capitalists will come down to listen to the founders pitch. The ideas are their startups. Right? So it’s a way to get in front of an audience that sets you up for growth over the long term.

Michael Waitze 4:21
You said you originally started studying finance, but then you switched into marketing. Yes. What caused that change? Was it like you were talking to your friends and like this marketing thing looked like it looks like it’s going to be more important, something that may actually be harder to learn on the job than the finance like what what changed your mind?

Nathaniel Yim 4:39
It was a process of like thinking through things over a year before I made that switch. I think going into university I was a very typical student that wanting to graduate for finance to be I’m going to banking on a lot of money. And during Chinese New Year my relatives can help people he’s working at a bank because that’s what everybody was doing. And then I interned at a very big bang, I’m not gonna say it was six months. And at the end of the six months, I basically realized that this wasn’t for me, right? Like it was, it was a good experience, I did enjoy working with my peers and with the bosses. But I found the nature of finance itself didn’t appeal to me. And during that time, I was having conversations with a friend who was supposed to intern at the same place as me, but she decided to drop it in favor of a marketing internship. I love it, right. And she told me about her experiences and how much fun she was having. And I thought, you know, that makes so much more sense. After my internship, when I went back to uni, for my final year, I decided to give it a try. Instead of just doing finance modules, I did a number of marketing modules. And just like, made me realize that was where my passion and interestingly, it was, like night and day. Firstly, my results were completely different. Secondly, just came a lot more naturally, I found it to be way more engaging. So.

Michael Waitze 6:03
So I like to say that I worked at a bank for 20 something years. And I feel lucky to still like have my hair. Yeah. I lost most of my soul when I was there. And my brother, I don’t know if I told you this when I was in Singapore, but my brother’s a neurosurgeon. And I used to say to him, because he was like, Wow, I can’t believe you work at Goldman Sachs. That’s so cool. And I’m like you’re a neurosurgeon. It feels a lot cooler. And I used to say to him, If I ever lose my job, the only thing I’m qualified to do, is to be like your housemaid. Because I’m not really learning anything here. We’re just moving money around. Anyway. I think you probably chose the right path. And to be fair, if it felt more natural to you, then it definitely is the right path for sure. Yeah. But did you go right into the incubator program, right after you graduated, like was entrepreneurship, something you always thought, I’m not gonna go get a job, particularly after your internship? Or was it just kind of a thing you did with your friend?

Nathaniel Yim 7:00
It was something I fell into by accident, right? So it cost me to elaborate. So in my final year of university, I switched after the first semester of the marketing modules, I switch entirely to marketing, a point in time, my entire resume was geared towards finance. So I had no marketing internships, I had no professional experience doing anything, I was marketing related. So I had to cram as much work experience into one year, while overloading modules to clear my specialization at the same time. But because by year for most of my peers who had been doing marketing from the beginning, they already had a pretty loaded resume, or the nice logos. There was what I was going up against, and having nothing there. I had to start from the bottom. Someone told me, you know, startups will take you even if nothing, because anyone Nice. So I applied to a startup, an SME, actually. And then the guy who ran the the SME market research from very smallest to men outfit. He’s a NUS Business School alumni as well. Cool. So he said, Why don’t you I have two other companies I’m running. So why don’t you help me out with a few of these get as much exposure as possible. And one of them was a b2c tech startup. And basically, I was the only marketing person there as an intern. And that was my first marketing internship. So when I was there, the first week, this guy asked me to think of a product and sell it. Like what do you mean? Next week is Christmas, think of a product and sell the product and make some money. I looked at him. Your your thing is a b2c app. You’re a photo printing app, what product do you want? Just think of an Italian, right? So we had to just like scramble, figure out a way to to create a product. In the end, what we went with was a Christmas tree decoration kit, with the the core of it was the photos that you printed through the app. Right? And then we launched it in a week, and we made money from it. Right? So that opened up my eyes to like the possibilities of entrepreneurship, you can create value out of basically nothing in a short span of time. Right. And it was that internship that set me on this path, I would say. So after that, I interned at a few other marketing, I did a stint at a brand consultancy, worked at a nonprofit and helping them to do digital marketing. And over time, I realized that marketing really you can start from from nothing and you can create something out of nothing. Right? And that gave me confidence to to when we started January, right, so genuine was was basically straight out of school, December 2017. I graduated January 2018. My co founder, my classmate, who is a finance guy comes up to me and says, we found a job. If you ever been you want to start a company with me. Okay, sure. Let’s do it. So we started the company about six years ago. Right and incubation with the SMU program. and was in April. So it was a couple of months after we started, the company, basically just went straight into it.

Michael Waitze 10:05
So why did you choose this what Jenny was doing? Maybe you can explain what Jenny was right? Because, yeah, it’s this asset low, if almost like a no asset company, but definitely asset low. And that had nothing to do with what you were doing before this idea that you could create value out of nothing. What you learned from this photo sharing app or photo printing up internship was like, I guess I can do anything? Yeah. So what was the idea behind Janni? Or how did that start?

Nathaniel Yim 10:30
Yeah, so just a quick context, January is a b2c cross border, pop El, it has evolved over the years at this current stage, it is more of a end to end, digitally managed supply chain company. But at a point in time, when we started, it was a cross border b2c platform, right, that’s the only way I can describe it. The whole idea was, instead of buying more assets, like vans and planes, and then trying to do the cross border deliveries ourselves, we will work with everybody else who owns the assets, who are already experts in their respective areas in the supply chain. And we will make it more efficient, help them to optimize their assets, and coordinate shipments end to end using software. Right. So the only thing that we really have is the software that integrates with our supply chain partners from the first mile pickup, all the way down to the last mile delivery overseas. And we orchestrated from end to end. So that’s the whole business model in a nutshell. One of my co founders is 10 years older. So he’s a logistics guy. He’s been there for a while. And he has seen the challenges that many companies face in Southeast Asia when it comes to cross border movement of goods. Yeah. And so he knows the technicalities around how to solve this, right. But we needed a team that could be had a range of specializations that could basically cover all the different business problems that we will need to solve. So I really fell into it by chance. It’s only because my co founder was like, Hey, want to come on board and did a rationalization realize that you know, the downside is pretty low. What I really lose as a fresh graduate is time. But the upside is the sky’s the limit. Right? So if he goes well, you learn so much again, so much. So it was pretty straightforward decision for me at that point.

Michael Waitze 12:15
But this kind of reminds me of this conversation I had with Glenn lie, right? Who runs his company called Fr8ght Labs as well. It’s not so much that the business is exactly the same, but that this idea of partnering with somebody who’s kind of already, I wouldn’t even say in your case, peripheral to the business, but in the business who says this thing needs to modernize? Yeah. And that’s kind of cool, right? Because if you can find that person, your chances of success are so much higher, because they’re already doing it. They’re trying to solve all the problems, and instead of having to do the research for, they kind of already know Yeah. Yeah.

Nathaniel Yim 12:48
And it’s a nice, it’s a nice blend of perspectives, right? If you have someone who knows the problems very intimately, they can tell you like, this is the pain point, this is what makes people pull their hair out. And then if you have someone who is from outside the industry, you tend to look at things from a first principles perspective, right? Because you’re new to everything. And you’re able to say, it doesn’t doesn’t have to be that long. Can you cut out this step? And oh, yeah, why not? Why don’t we do that? Okay. Right. So then, then you get a very nice banner perspectives that, you know, leads to something that is truly unique.

Michael Waitze 13:23
How did you find the right tech people to do this? And then let me back up a little bit. So you went through the incubation program, you said there was a pitch? And then at the end of every cohort? Did your team was your team able to actually raise even a little bit of money at the end from some VCs or from some angel investors to kind of fund a little bit of the tech development, if that makes sense?

Nathaniel Yim 13:44
Okay, so maybe to answer the first part, how do we find tech people? Yeah, one of our co founders is, was the CTO. So he we found him through a mutual friend. He’s basically the best friend of a classmate of ours. So we didn’t know him before we started the company. In fact, our first meeting with him, we thought he was going to go stuff because he was two hours late. He went to he went to Johor, for for a day trip, and then he got stuck on the way back. And the three of us were sitting in Manhattan fishmarket, there’ll be God. And we were thinking, Where, where is this guy? Maybe we should go back home. Then he texted us. Sorry, guys. I’m still in a gym. Okay, we’ll just wait for him. And he came in and we told him the idea. And he was like, Okay, let’s do it together. So we had a founding CTO from the beginning. And he basically helped us to know screen and bring in engineers over time, to the second part, will be able to raise funds at the end of the the incubation program. My CEO, who is still running the company, he is his background is in VC and PE. So going into this, this whole thing. He already knew people whom he could speak to network with and start canvassing for fundraising. Right. So when he told me about the idea he there was already there were Add a few people who are interested in backing it right. So long as there was traction. All we had to do was get things going. And then the it was basically a done deal afterwards. Like,

Michael Waitze 15:10
I just want to go back to this conversation that you had, right where you said, this buddy of yours called you and said, Do you have a job? Which is a great way to start a conversation with somebody if you want to offer them a job. But were you kind of excited? Did you feel like, you know what I must have made the right choice because they don’t have the guy that understands how to get the customers to get the business. Like they know the tech side, they know the problems that they’re solving. But they don’t have the marketing guy. We just like it worked kind of thing at the beginning.

Nathaniel Yim 15:39
Sort of, I think I was I was looking at it and thinking. I mean, I have no b2b marketing experience. So even though I studied marketing, is going to be an uphill challenge. Sure. Which which was part of the appeal to me, right? Like the appeal of it sounds great. When you think about you’re like, hey, I get to do everything and learn everything. And then when you have to do everything, and then everything you realize,

Michael Waitze 16:05
like, Oh my God, I need to learn everything and do it. Yeah. Yeah. Cool on paper.

Nathaniel Yim 16:10
All right. So so that was the appeal to me, like, okay, I get to do this. And if you know, we make something of it, then I can say that, that was me like, yeah, I contributed to that. So that was really why I was keen on this.

Michael Waitze 16:22
So while you were learning everything and doing everything. Here’s the big difference, right? To get into NUS. You have to have had, I believe, at least if it’s anything like the way it works in the United States, you have to have had a good school track record. Yeah. Right. Because it’s the best university in Singapore, let’s just say top three. So the other people don’t argue with us, right? Like, yell at you when you get on the subway tomorrow. Like I heard what you said. But it’s a good school. So you’ve always been good at like learning stuff. But in school, the learning is pretty well directed, right? It’s like read this thing, learn that thing. Listen to this gal, she’ll teach you how to do it. But when you have to learn everything and do everything on your own, how do you figure out like, where to learn stuff? And what to learn if that makes sense?

Nathaniel Yim 17:09
That’s a great question. I think I picked some of that up in school. So one of the interesting things, or at least, the modules and the professors that I remember the most where I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Were the ones which were a lot more open ended.

Michael Waitze 17:26
I mean, think Can I just jump in for a second? Think about your experience at that startup? The picture, the picture, printing one, the guy was like, just make a product you like what product? He’s like, which part of just make a product? Didn’t you understand? Yeah, I’m not giving you more information. I don’t have time for this conversation. That’s kind of what he was saying. Right. Sorry. Go ahead. Yeah.

Nathaniel Yim 17:41
Yeah. So I had a professor in university. In fact, it was the same professor from the guest lecture last week. Cool. One of the major assignments of the module was to critique a, I think it was a political publication. Right. So you’re super open, open ended. And then the publication choices were real pieces of research published by PhD holders from very renowned universities. Yeah. And I was like, What do you mean by quitting? Like this? Read it and PTK? Exactly. It’s like, yeah, so I just, Okay, I’m just gonna write this. And she was like, this is at the end of it. She was like, This is great. This is a great critique. So it made me realize, firstly, not to be afraid of, you know, what is out there? I think, especially for many of us who go to education systems. We are afraid of being wrong. We are we tend to kind of, you know, subject ourselves to a higher authority that tells us whether we are right or wrong. It’s really, yeah, yeah. And it takes a while to bring that. So and the reality is, like most of us, we only know what we know. Right? And everybody’s just trying their best. So that’s the most important thing. And then assignment kind of taught me that. And then the second thing is 8020, right. So if you are able to look at things and map, map it out, there’s usually one or two portions where if you address those creates an outsized impact, right. So that’s one of the things that work. It takes a while to develop, but I will say throughout the genuine experience, many times when things happen, they happen very fast, and very massively. Right, like COVID, came out of nowhere. Yeah, and basically forced us to make massive changes, and do things which were not done before. Things like recession and things like team structure being having to change requires us to quickly figure out you know, how to stay on our toes how to do that one or two changes that lead to the biggest outcomes. Right. So, yeah, it’s a process of like looking back at data, making an educated guess, and then iterating iterating, what you’re doing and also iterating the way you do things right over time.

Michael Waitze 20:00
everybody in Singapore has to go through military service. And that’s between what? I don’t want to call it junior college, but it’s between when your previous education ends, and then you go to university. Yeah. Is that what you normally do? Alright, alright, so what do you learn there that you can because I like I kind of missed the fact that I never did any of that. I feel like there’s a discipline that gets imbued into you in some sort of risk level of responsibility. I’m giving you this gun or putting you in this helicopter or making you in charge of this unit. You better take it seriously, I don’t care if you’re only 20 kind of thing. What do you take from that into building a startup where you have to kind of run stuff from scratch and learn stuff from everywhere? As you said? Yeah,

Nathaniel Yim 20:39
definitely. Leadership is one of the things that I drill down. In fact, it’s, it’s really one of the things that are from the start audit to the end, it’s its main message has proven. So I was pretty fortunate, I was able to go to command school, and then a thing or two about leadership, yeah, leading different types of teams in different types of settings. Discipline is also something that you is definitely drilled into you, right, you do lots of drills, you have standards to hear, can be pretty demanding. So when the occasion calls for it, you just have to rise to the occasion. Yeah, it kind of shows you like what you’re capable of as well. And that is transferable to everything that you do thereafter. Right. Interestingly, there are also ways of thinking that are cultivated in the military that are also transferable. Tell me, right, so I was in the artillery, okay. Context, artillery is just think of like big guns, big bombs over long distances, right. And the training in the SAF is very, very, it’s very thorough and complete, they will never put you in a situation where you have not been prepared for it. So everything that you do from basic training all the way to, when you fire the big guns to when you call for the big guns to fire, everything is trained, you’re trained properly, and you cannot proceed unless you have done certain tests and passed. By the end of it, I was basically put into a plan planning rule, which currently, as part of my national service obligation, I go back once a year to do planning kind of work. Right. So without revealing too much this work requires me to do coordination between different types of units. It also requires me to understand how to do planning, given resources, right, appropriate resource matching to situations Yeah. Which if you think about it, is what you need to do in a startup. Yeah, right. And the artillery basically serves to support infantry, right infantry are the people that go in face to face, that televi you are providing fire support from a long distance, putting into business context, inventory is like sales, they are face to face. Yeah. And, and they they are, they’re there in front of, you know, the prospects, the clients, they have to present everything as it is, right they kind of skin marketers, we support the salespeople by helping them to, you know, create brand, build a perception, provide materials, generate leads for them, even though right now you can’t see the leads, we help to bring those leads in to different types of marketing channels and methods for the sales team to go in face to face and follow up. Kind of like how the artillery and infantry work together,

Michael Waitze 23:18
I want to make the equivalency way more explicitly. One of the things you said and I wrote it down was to never gonna put you in a position that you’re not prepared for. And what you’re suggesting is as a marketing person, right, if you make the equivalency into sales, is you’re not just going to send them out and just sell something. You want them to be in a position also for which they are prepared. Right? Because there’s this there’s this idea that like startups are chaos, it’s just constantly chaos, and you’re talking to your sales guys and sales ladies, and just going I don’t care, just go out and sell it. But that can’t be true. Right. So talk to me a little bit more in detail about because I guess now we’re getting into Nila, maybe talk about what you took out of Jan, do what you learned and thought, oh, wait a second, maybe everybody needs these skills, but they don’t have them. So how can I then affect that everywhere as opposed to just a general? And then what you actually do to affect that, if that makes sense. So

Nathaniel Yim 24:15
at the law studios, what we do is more of the marketing stuff, rather than the sales at General, I had to look at both, right. So that gave me an idea of how to very good experience in terms of learning, both marketing in a b2b setting in Southeast Asia, as well as the face to face sales across different types of markets. So basically, what happened is that equipped me to work as a marketer, with sales leaders, right and see us founders, because I understand the challenges and the things that are top of mind for founders. I also know what are the things you face when you do face to face sales? Yeah, right. And then how marketing is supposed to effectively support that right all the way from lead generation to supporting what you’re doing during the sales meetings itself. Right I think one of the most critical things that I realized in January was, it doesn’t matter which department you are in, you need a very, very powerful and common understanding of your customer. Firstly, second, a thorough and common understanding of your solution, your product that you

Michael Waitze 25:18
can I just say this, there’s nothing worse than talking to a salesperson or talking to even like a marketing person and going, okay, I get this. But what does that mean, in the context of this entire product? They’re like, I don’t know. Like, that’s

Nathaniel Yim 25:29
exactly right. And salespeople, because they are put on the spot in front of the client, right? A good salesperson would figure it out afterwards, right. And so over time, they become proficient in the solution, and they know how to explain it. But marketers are rarely ever put on the spot. Right? So I just had a conversation if a marketer last week, where the marketing marketing material was developed, well, based on things like the product requirements, documents, that productivity them, are what they saw on the website versus competitor websites. And I just told them straight up, you know, if business is like war, and you have to go in and fight a war, what you are doing is saying this guy is great, because I read the description, therefore it’s great, right? You you’ve never used it. You’ve never logged into the portal, you don’t know what the features does. You’ve never done the deliveries. So you don’t know how it looks like. Right? But sales because they go face to face, they’re forced to figure out how to use the tool. Yeah. Right. So marketers, salespeople both need to understand the thing inside out, right? Because you can’t you can’t sell what you don’t understand. Right? And basically, like, I don’t know how you get conviction to do that. So

Michael Waitze 26:34
I had a whole conversation. And I think I published this episode in one of my other podcasts InsurTech amplify and had this whole comms conversation with this woman named Emma Rohloff. And her thesis was that the greatest salespeople are teachers, because they actually, they’re not just selling you something. They’re saying, here’s what your current situation is, here’s how I can help you do that. And here’s why this math or whatever it is, works. And I’m going to teach you through this process. And by the time you’re done, you’re not going to ask me how much it costs. You’re gonna ask me when can I have it? Yeah,

Nathaniel Yim 27:04
yep. Yep, exactly. Problem solving teachers. Yes.

Michael Waitze 27:08
Yeah. That’s, that’s what I think. So you also, can we talk about this a little bit, though, I like to say that the biggest problem that startups have is not money or funding. And a lot of people argue with me about this. My I think the biggest problem that startups have says discovery, how do people even know you’re doing this? And I think this gets back to this marketing thing that you’re talking about? And through marketing into sales? It’s just like, how do I even know you’re out there? How does Neila help with that as well? Because if you’re not part of the company, you’re helping a company, how do you help them get discovered?

Nathaniel Yim 27:40
We do that through a few different ways. The main service that we do right now is mostly around inbound content. So this can take the form of article creation that helps you to rank on Google Search, which, in fact, was one of the main initiatives that we had right from the beginning at General. Right. And so the insight the and the world is a bit different. Now we’ve chat GPT, and sure AI tools. But back then, being fresh grads who didn’t know anything about logistics, at least for for my case, the first thing I did was to just do a search ecommerce logistics in Southeast Asia, and nothing showed up. Right? So yes, the closest thing was ecommerce logistics partner, very generic, not localized, doesn’t factor in the complexities of the market. So it was both. It was both worrying, because where do I get my education from on this? But it was also like the big insight, hey, no one is publishing materials on this. That is the game that I can tackle. Right. So basically, our marketing strategy, our brand building was content, everything you can think of related to e commerce logistics, we made sure we showed up rank one, rank three, even five, three different articles. Right. So we are doing that for some of our clients. At the same time, LinkedIn, I think, has become a lot more compared to like, even like six years ago, there are a lot more people on LinkedIn. Yeah, and it’s a it’s a platform that many people browse to, to get information, maybe even for entertainment. And it’s used a lot more compared to previously. So it’s another platform that we we work with our clients on to help founders at a very early stage, the founder is the brand essentially, right? If you say your company name like Sorry, was that, but people might know the founders name instead of the company name, right? Especially if you’re solving a problem for your industry. Right? So the founder is the brand and you want to use your brand platform, you want to leverage that as much as possible. So content around the individual’s profile or the corporate profile, using that to gain traction and visibility and interest in the product. Like

Michael Waitze 29:49
in a way you were fortunate, right? Because you want to you looked at ecommerce logistics and nobody else was out there buying the AdWords or writing content or publishing content on it, right. So it was kind of Greenfield so you’re like, we can own this thing. We can be number one, we can be number two, whatever it was, we can definitely be on the first page. What do you do if someone’s already operating in that space? Right? And they’ve been kind of smart enough or savvy enough to understand like that they need to buy the AdWords and do some of the SEO stuff. But let’s say your business is better. What do you do then? Because it’s more expensive, right to then get to the top of the page. How do you disintermediate that problem? You see that? I didn’t do that on purpose anymore.

Nathaniel Yim 30:26
I started. Yeah. So that’s a great question. And it’s a very real challenge, especially when you’ve got aI content that helps you to churn out 10 articles a day. Yeah. So there’s, there’s a lot of content out there right now that that should not be out there. If you ask me agreed. The first thing and I will say this, the most important thing is whatever you publish, you just have to make sure it’s really good, right? And so it cannot just be a paraphrase of what is already there. It has to be something unique with useful primary data useful insights as to represent what you do as a company what your solution does. So

Michael Waitze 31:01
isn’t this the biggest? Because you just said it, right? You said there’s all this content, you can grade 10 articles a day. But it’s kind of generic. Yes. Right. So like, I use chat, GPT. And I’m pretty open about that. But I use it more for structure than for anything else. And I definitely imbue and my business partner, I talked about this whole time, my own personality into it. And my own insights so that people know, Oh, Michael wrote that he may have had help writing it. But to me, that’s like having, you know, a junior gal working for me who’s doing some of the writing, and then I fill in the gaps where I put my personality into it. I think that’s okay. But I think you’re right, if you just like saying, talk to me about logistics for E commerce, and you just published you just vomit that back onto the internet. That feels really lame to me. Yeah.

Nathaniel Yim 31:45
Yeah. So that editorial input, where you putting your own unique human perspective in, you’re still very important.

Michael Waitze 31:53
So when you could just go back to this experience, you had a genuine? Was it an epiphany for you to figure out like, we need to be publishing this content? Did it come out of this stuff you learned at school? Like, did you stumble on it? Like, how did that happen?

Nathaniel Yim 32:08
Oh, all the things that we were learning around. And by that I mean, like the the non operations people in the company, we would, you know, talk to the operations team. Try to learn as much vicariously as possible Sure, all the notes we were taking, we turn those notes into our content, right? So it was a, it’s kind of like a loop, whatever we were, we were publishing, right. And after a while, people were starting started telling us like, Hey, this is really good. I’m learning something, right. And I think the best moments were people saying, I print this out, and I put this in my, in my warehouse, so my staff following write, to us, that was like stamp of approval, we need to do more of these. And I mean, over time, it changed a bit, we went into more niche areas as we started targeting more niche customers, etc. Because we put in other people seeing and sometimes our clients tell us during our meetings, Hey, I saw your article, it was great. Right? That feedback helps us to know what we’re doing is working and helps us to streamline or improve on on some of the things that we’re currently working on.

Michael Waitze 33:12
That feels to me like really personalized service internally. Right. So you’re sitting with, like you said, with the operations team, and Jenny Oh, and you’re saying, how about this? How about that? What are you doing? How does that work? You write down those notes, you turn them into content? But that doesn’t scale? Right? So as Nila if you want to scale? Is it part and I don’t know this right. But is it part of the business to go into them and say, here are five different tactics, non strategies, right, here are five different tactics you need to use internally to build this content. And we can help manage you through that process and maybe create some tech tools around that as well. Like, how does that work? So you can end up scaling?

Nathaniel Yim 33:49
Yep. That’s a great question. I think if you’re creating something that is really unique, no one else has done before, as far as content is concerned, then you’re right. It is not very scalable, because it’s a unique thing every single time. Right, but where you can scale it is around distribution and repurposing. Right. So what we’d like to do is, if you have a, let’s say, an interview that you’re doing, are something interesting that you observed. What can we do to extend the mileage of this right? How can we slice and dice this in different ways, different formats, publish on different platforms? Right, not just on marketing platforms? Can the sales team use it as well send these to your clients and these to your leads? can petition emails on social on your website? Even something like a podcast, one podcast recording, you can slice and dice it and distribute it 100 times. Right? Indeed, yes. So it’s really about like getting as much leverage as possible and maximizing the utility of whatever it is you’re working on. So

Michael Waitze 34:53
how long have you been working on a Nila

Nathaniel Yim 34:57
would be around seven to eight months now.

Michael Waitze 34:59
Oh, wow. So It’s really new. Yeah.

Nathaniel Yim 35:01
Yes. Yes. I left Janio at the end of June last year, it’s very recent.

Michael Waitze 35:06
And how are you finding building the traction for Nila? Now that you’ve been doing this and what is like being a second time founder like and how is it different or better or easier or harder, whatever, then being a first time founder.

Nathaniel Yim 35:18
So for the attraction portion, most of the early clients that I’m still working with them from my from my network. So these are people I’ve met along the way, who saw me postings. Interestingly, I have clients who saw me postings on LinkedIn. Right, which is why LinkedIn is one of the things that we it’s, we work on, right, because we we’ve gained from it. And we also like to practice what we preach. Yeah, we don’t do things that we’ve not tested before. So that’s how we get we get our traction. And it’s also the conversation that we started. There’s no right or wrong and us and the thing that I did last week. So yeah, that’s how we get traction, right through some of the marketing. That is both our service to our clients, but we do it ourselves.

Michael Waitze 36:02
Yeah. So what is it like being a second time founder? Is it easier or harder? Like, how does that work?

Nathaniel Yim 36:06
It’s different this time around? Because the first time around, I had three co founders. So there were four of us. Yeah, sorry. It wasn’t as lonely. Right? Even though the hours are the same. It is working like seven days a week. Yeah. But previously, I could look to my left and right and see everybody suffering together. This time around is just me. So being a solo founder is a lot more. You really have to push yourself, right, because now you don’t have anyone else holding you accountable. Yeah. Secondly, genuis VC backed from the beginning. Whereas formula Studios is entirely bootstrapped. Right, so in terms of resources and cash flow, it’s a very different, very different situation. In this case, if I, if I don’t work, there is nothing done, because it is just me. Secondly, it means there won’t be any revenue next month. Right. So it’s, it’s a process of continuously pushing myself to make sure that, you know, the company grows, and we’re able to generate cash,

Michael Waitze 37:07
I want to share a funny story with you. When I was working at Goldman Sachs, my daughter was going to this kindergarten in Tokyo, and one of her friends and I put that in quotes about another five year old little boy, his parents invited us to go on vacation with them. And you know, at that time, I only worked at big companies. And the guy with whom we were going on vacation, so the dad of this little kid, it was in his 60s, and he was an entrepreneur. And when we were we were actually in Thailand on vacation, and we were sitting in the pool, he said to me, and I kind of thought he was being a wiseass at the time. But he said to me, you’re on a one week vacation, do you still get paid? And I was like, That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard. Of course, I get paid, like I have a job. But now that I have my own company, I know exactly what he means. And that’s kind of what you were saying to like, if you’re not affecting things. You’re not getting paid. And it’s a completely different mindset. So it’s just interesting to me that that you said that. I want to ask you one last thing. And like I said, and then I’ll let you go. You know, you said that your original track in school was to study finance, and that over Chinese New Year’s, your parents or your family could just brag that you were working out, I’m just gonna say like Morgan Stanley, or whatever it is when I’m just making it up because I worked there so I can use it. But they couldn’t do that. Did you take any flack from that as a kid? Because I think people forget when you graduate from college, like you’re 22, you’re 23 you know, your parents are probably in their 40s. And their friends are just going, Hey, Daniel stopped taking finance, hated working at the bank, and went into marketing doesn’t have a job and now went into a startup, like, was there family pressure as well? Or? No,

Nathaniel Yim 38:53
there was definitely my parents are both civil servants. So they are they’re the most risk averse people you could meet. And I think it wasn’t just the quite a number of my friends were telling me. What do you know about logistics? Why are you doing this? If people that you don’t even you’ve just met like a week ago, why are you doing this? Right? So you’re just like, nose all around? Like don’t do it? Yeah. So for me, it was really just, Okay, I’m gonna give it some time and see how it goes. And these are people that I mean, at least my my co founder, the CEO, I’ve worked with him in school before. So it’s someone that I trust and I know he’s capable. Yeah. And I think over time, the the results kind of spoke for itself. Fair enough. Like the traction we got and the team growing in size and revenue. Over time, my family saw what we were doing and they kind of stopped asking questions. believed in it a bit more time. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 39:49
Okay, so I said that was the last thing and I lied. One more thing because I remembered this. You go back and you want to give back to school whether it’s an NUS or SMU and In this case last week, you were in a master’s program. These are very well educated kids. Right? And also people that potentially have worked already. What are the biggest questions they have for you? I guess it’s a marketing class. Right? So they’re asking you about marketing specifically, but like, what are the common questions that they asked for you? And maybe you can give me like a common answer that you give to them the thing where they’re like, Oh, I hadn’t thought about it that way. Kind of thing.

Nathaniel Yim 40:23
Yeah, the class last week was a master’s program. And some of them have a bit of work experience already. One of the interesting questions I got was around, how do you do marketing for a, a service business that doesn’t have assets to do the service? So the class was a services marketing class, which is why I was there. And I think the the common wisdom is, if you don’t have a physical product, right? Basically, what you’re doing is intangible in nature. How do you get people to believe in what you do is through demonstration of expertise. So you use associated imagery in the context of logistics, that will be things like showcasing your events, your your planes, like these are the things to which I will deliver your service. Right, but if you don’t have any of the above, how do you do that? Right, convey that. Right. And I think where the question was coming from is from people who have experienced in corporates who are used to a more usual way of doing things by a physical product, or service or traditional service. So that’s where being genuine people are forced to get creative around our business model, as well as the financial constraints as a very young startup with limited funding. Right. So that forced us to look at how, okay, what makes a big brand name, well known and green, what can we do to get in on that? Right? So some of those things that that we had to do, you know, leverage partnerships as much as possible. There was the content play as well. And getting very creative around like, you know, how traditional things ways of doing marketing are. So I’ll give you one quick example. Before we close, please. In in Malaysia, there’s this concept of resellers, right? Basically, it can be a mom and pop shop where they resell logistics services from, let’s say, SF express on in Japan or FedEx. This is all over Malaysia, right? So it’s a very, it’s a physical brick and mortar store, where you can walk in and sell and buy a logistics service. Okay? When you walk in, you will see the banners of all the different brands, right, purple, yellow, red. We were working in resellers, and one of the things that we realized would make our brand look as big as those brands are simply putting a banner next to them. I love it. You walk in, you see purple, yellow, red, blue, genuine blue. In your mind, we on the same stage there has to be right. And it’s just across our banner.

Michael Waitze 42:57
Wow. And that worked, obviously. Okay, that’s a great story. Look, I’m gonna let you go Nathaniel Yim, a Director of Nila studios. That was awesome. I really appreciate your time. And I cannot thank you enough for doing this. I really, thank you so much.

Nathaniel Yim 43:15
Thanks, Michael.

 

 

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