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Joey Chung, Co-Founder And CEO At The News Lens- An Independent Digital Media Startup In Taiwan With 14M+ Readers

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Joey Chang is the co-founder and CEO of The News Lens. It is an independent digital media start-up that today is one of the largest independent media platforms in Taiwan and Greater China, with offices in Taipei, Hong Kong and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

With over 14 million monthly readers and unique investors, including former Washington Post executives and 500 start-ups, we aim to be a platform for China’s Millennial audience in news, opinion, video and mobile content.

Joey received his MBA from Harvard University in 2009. In 2011 he became CEO of Sanrio China.

He then returned to Taiwan and in 2013 co-founded The News Lens, one of Asia’s fastest growing digital media outlets, which focuses on facts and offers a variety of news and opinions. Joey has written several books and is also a columnist for Business Weekly.

In an exclusive interview with Joey Chang, says:

I motivate myself every day, just as I imagine every parent waking up every morning. In any case, your child is already born, so it’s my job as a parent to make sure that one day your child reaches his or her full potential and is able to take care of themselves. Everything else is static, and we don’t have much time to worry about the intangibles, so we have to focus entirely on growing our baby, and that makes you think about him every day without stopping for even a minute.

We only get one chance in life, so my biggest fear since childhood is that one day, when I’m 30, 40 or 50 years old, I won’t want to look back and regret not doing what I could only do at certain times in my life. If you accept this assumption, you will do your best to not waste time, take every opportunity and have no regrets, which will make you a good job if you are passionate.

I hope that one day I will be remembered as one of the people who helped lead one of the largest independent platforms for digital content and technology from its inception to its eventual emergence as a public company on the world stage, proving that the journey was worthwhile, achievable, and had a positive impact on the future wave of entrepreneurs.

Read on to learn more about Joey Cheung and his career path.

Tell me about your personal experience and why you started your business.

Joey Chang: I grew up in the United States, but I was educated in the United States and later in Taiwan, where my family is from. After graduating from business school in the United States, I worked in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and then my last employer sent me to Shanghai to run the office. I worked for a Japanese licensing, trademark and media company called Sanrio, owner of Hello Kitty.

I met my current co-founder just before I started the company. We discussed the need for fair, balanced and quality digital media for the millennial generation as traditional media slowly becomes digital. We thought we had the time and opportunity to take advantage of this need.

What is your current core product and can you tell a previous story about your current core product?

Joey Chang: We started with one media brand, News Lens, to focus on serious world news and publish only decent news and quality content. After growing up, we became a media company. In the past two and a half years, we have acquired four different media areas, from sports to film. Our recent acquisitions were another turning point, as we acquired a large data research and mobile advertising technology company, which symbolizes becoming a larger data and technology services company in addition to our existing media business.

How much money have you raised in total so far? When was the last funding cycle?

Joey Chang: In the last six years, we’ve raised less than $10 million. We are currently trying to secure the final funding before we hope to make it public in the next two years.

What internal decision-making processes determined the start of fundraising and what were the logistics of this? And how many investors did you meet, how did you meet them, and which channels served you best?

Joey Chang: Since we are almost 7 years old, we have already done 4 rounds. We’ve already had four rounds of funding, so I would say at this point we’ve met most of the major institutional venture capitalists or angel investors in Taiwan, Asia and many parts of Silicon Valley. We see that it is time to start fundraising again when the phases of the last cycle are completed and we have six months to a year before the next capital injection is needed.

What are the main challenges and obstacles you have faced in fundraising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently?

Joey Chang: Since our initial goal was to be an independent media company, free from political bias, influence or corporate agenda, by far the biggest challenge and obstacle in the fundraising process we face is that the many potential investors who may give you the best valuation or who are most interested in you are often the ones you need to avoid to maintain your independent media image. They are often associated with certain political groups or with large conglomerates or families that have a proven influence on the media. This makes it very difficult to select investors carefully and at the same time you often have to reject certain groups of investors.

What are the milestones for the next cycle? And what are your goals for the future?

Joey Chang: Milestones in this upcoming cycle include the completion of recent acquisitions to become one of the largest digital media groups in the global Chinese language market, and the addition of data analytics or related technical services such as AI advertising technology or Big Data analytics. After this phase we are, we hope, in the early stages of the preparation for a possible IPO.

How did you engage users and what strategy did you use to grow your business from the beginning to now?

Joey Chang: The first wave of users was attracted in a completely organic and natural way. We have strived to be a platform for the younger digital generation to read important news or share the latest opinions on social issues. Our aim is to remain as independent as possible and to commit ourselves as best we can to this image and ideal, and fortunately, thanks to word of mouth, this will attract more and more users who will continue to rely on this image and sense of trust.

Which software was the best marketing tool for the growth of your start-up and why? And that most startups do bad marketing in general?

Joey Chang: We haven’t used any other marketing software for our growth, but from the other startups we’ve come across, a common problem seems to be that the importance of marketing is underestimated. For many Asian companies, because the first experience often comes from a technical or highly technical product, people often think that their main job is to develop a better product, and once you have a better product, the marketing and sales will come naturally. It’s often not that simple. Even if you have the best product, you need to pay enough attention to marketing and sales to keep up with your potential customers.

How do you plan to expand globally? What are the most common mistakes companies make in their global expansion?

Joey Chang: As we are of Chinese origin, we plan to expand further where there is a strong Chinese customer base abroad, i.e. in Southeast Asia and the United States, or in other markets such as Australia and the United Kingdom. Some of these activities will be carried out organically, by hiring more writers or editors in these regions, while other more comprehensive options will be achieved through joint ventures or acquisitions with local partners. We believe that the most common mistake companies make is to automatically assume that any work done in their home market is easily transferable to other markets, even if the culture and language are similar; there are so many small details and different nuances that can easily be overlooked, and it suddenly becomes a very costly waste of resources, time and money.

How do you deal with the COWID 19 epidemic to ensure the survival of your business?

Joey Chang: Fortunately, the covidification situation in Taiwan is not that bad and on average probably much more normal than in other markets. It’s certainly an opportunity for us to settle down, to rebuild ourselves internally so that we have a better organization, a more efficient organization, and to move forward with all of our key priorities in the years ahead. Initially, we were forced to make major changes to our international expansion plans, so we had to adapt quickly.

What are the most common mistakes founders make when starting a business? What is the best advice you have ever received? And what advice can you give to someone who wants to do similar things with you, or go in a similar direction?

Joey Chang: I think it might be too idealistic at first. All founders are idealistic by nature, otherwise they would not take all the risks to start a new business. But being too idealistic can also be very dangerous in the long run, because sometimes you are not able to be flexible, compromise or face the harsh reality of all these painful things. B. fundraising, talking to strangers every day or meeting new investors and trying to meet sales quotas. The most common advice I’ve given to potential entrepreneurs over the past few years is that it’s good to have dreams and be idealistic before bed. But when you wake up in the morning, you have to be ready for war, you have to be painfully realistic and every plan has to be tangible for the worst case scenario. Trying to be a good person, contributing to the community is all well and good, but ultimately none of that matters to potential investors if your business model doesn’t work. You have to be very hard on yourself and all the tasks you have to do.

How do you stay motivated every day

Joey Chang: I motivate myself every day, just as I imagine every parent waking up every morning. In any case, your child is already born, so it’s my job as a parent to make sure that one day your child reaches his or her full potential and is able to take care of themselves. Everything else is static, and we don’t have much time to worry about the intangibles, so we have to focus entirely on growing our baby, and that makes you think about him every day without stopping for even a minute.

What are the three most important life lessons you want your (future) sons and daughters to learn? Why would you want to be remembered?

Joey Chang: We only get one chance in life, so my biggest fear since childhood is that one day, when I’m 30, 40 or 50 years old, I won’t want to look back and regret not doing what I could only do at certain times in my life. If you accept this assumption, you will do your best not to waste time, take every opportunity and have no regrets, which will make you a good job if you are passionate.

I hope that one day I will be remembered as one of the people who helped lead one of the largest independent platforms for digital content and technology from its inception to its eventual emergence as a public company on the world stage, proving that the journey was worthwhile, achievable, and had a positive impact on the future wave of entrepreneurs.

You can follow Joey Chang.

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