In April 2021, we marked five years of operations. This journey has its own fair share of ups and downs, but as of today, we have expanded into 17 offices across 13 markets, a headcount of over 800 people, made seven acquisitions across Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan and India, and raised a total funding of US$62.3 million.

For the year 2020, even though we had been in operation for less than five years, we grew our revenue to over US$100 million for the year.

As a founder, my journey into entrepreneurship started when I was 29 years old, and over the years there have been many challenges and lessons learned as we scaled the business. I’ll share four here that I hope can provide insights and inspiration for other founders.

Communicate with your employees as you did on day one

As businesses grow, it’s common for founders to get caught up in the daily grind, high-level decision making, investor and shareholder meetings, and finding new ways to bring greater growth to the business.

However, I feel that it is highly important for founders to still have conversations directly with employees. I’m not referring to the frequency of such communications, but more about having direct lines into the pulse of your business just like how it was in the early days, including casual lunch chats and just making yourself open to anyone in the company.

Ultimately, this brings a range of benefits including increasing employee motivation and connection with the business, obtaining insights, and identifying new opportunities to grow the business. Founders set company culture, and having more casual conversations with employees ensures that they are closely aligned with the expectations and direction of the business.

Constantly find new ways to add vertical and horizontal value to customers

I believe that to be highly successful, a company needs to constantly invest and build new innovations around its customer base. This ensures that a business is always providing new value to its customers.

Also Read: 3 ways a holistic cloud system powers business agility

Just take a look at successful Asian startups such as Grab, Alibaba and Tencent, they have multiple offerings built around their core customers and are constantly bringing added value to them.

For example, we started in the ad tech space, but within our first two years, moved quickly into technology for influencer marketing and publisher monetisation.

In the past year, we launched offerings in the direct-to-consumer space including cloud manufacturing, e-commerce enablement and logistics, and we are still looking at even more ways to develop new technology and business models for our customers.

This means that our customer base now has a wealth of solutions for their needs including marketing, e-commerce and even logistics.

For us, this comes in the form of building technology in the brand enablement space, constantly expanding our products vertically and horizontally within the brand enablement space to better help our customers, be it marketers, influencers, online publishers and business owners, to grow their brands even more.

This enables businesses to tap on the same salesforce to cross-sell new products that add value to the same customer or business.

Hyper-localisation is key for Asia

In a diverse market like Asia, it is a challenge to provide the same solution for customers across the entire region and expect success. For tech startups, this means not just having offerings in a market’s local language, but also tweaking solutions to match what the market needs including having feet on the ground to understand market nuances, trends and needs, building features and integrations for each local market.

It is ironic, but I feel that successful international expansion cannot happen without localisation.

It is important for businesses to build technology that can be used globally, but it is even more important to localise implementation and use of such technology. Look at high-profile tech startups in the region, they have localised their platforms, operations and even marketing activities to local markets.

In my own company, this is the approach we embarked on five years ago, and it has been successful in getting us to where we are today.

Ultimately, taking a global approach to building technology can get you to a certain point, but what takes you several points further is to have an overall business philosophy of localisation.

Also Read: Lessons learnt: 5 reasons why founding a startup is like earning a graduate business degree

Embrace growing pains

It is normal to experience growing pains as your business, headcount, or product(s) scales. For us, this journey was accelerated as we grew all three aspects quickly. These growing pains can come in any form: company policies, business operations, human resourcing issues, culture, along areas that are out of your direct control.

The key here is not in anticipating a growing pain or creating the perfect structure that scales as your business grows. It is all about how you handle them. We’re lucky in the sense that we have very supportive investors who have guided us over the years, and a strong leadership team made up of entrepreneurs, vertical experts, and employees who have been with us since our early days. With this collective experience, we are able to navigate challenges and move quickly as a company.

My best advice for this when facing growing pains is simply to be humble and don’t give up. No company is perfect and things can always be improved on.

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