Hoyin Cheung – How to Effectively Pivot Your Tech Startup

March 21, 2022
Up Your Creative Genius
Up Your Creative Genius
Hoyin Cheung - How to Effectively Pivot Your Tech Startup
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Show Notes

Hoyin Cheung is a serial entrepreneur, his core passions lie in helping businesses to grow in a scalable way with software tools. Hoyin has over 7+ years of experience building remote teams and has worked with Fortune 100 companies like Nike, Best Buy, TJ Maxx, SunGard, Cardinal Health, and Kaiser Permanente. He is currently passionate about creating authentic conversations that drive meaningful relationships in the most human way possible with the help of technology.

Timestamp

1:42 Backstory of Hoyin Cheung

3:53 The background of how Remo got started

8:13 The ups and downs in journey of building up Remo

14:37 Hoyin shares why he is excited about Remo

17:11 The challenges Hoyin faced while creating Remo

20:07 Hoyin’s vision and mission

23:36 Tips on pivoting a business and the importance of being open minded

Social Media

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/hoyincheung/

Remo https://remo.co/

Follow Patti Dobrowolski – Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/upyourcreativegenius/

Follow Patti Dobrowolski – Linkedinhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/patti-dobrowolski-532368/

Up Your Creative Geniushttps://upyourcreativegenius.com/

Transcription:

Patti Dobrowolski 00:03

Hello superstars, welcome to the Up Your Creative Genius podcast, where you will gain insight and tips to stomp on the accelerator and blast off to transform your business and your life. I’m your host, Patti Dobrowolski. And if this is your first time tuning in, then strap in because this is serious rocket fuel. Each week, I interview fellow creative geniuses to help you learn how easy it is to Up Your Creative Genius in any part of your life. Hey, everybody, it’s Patti Dobrowolski with Up Your Creative Genius. Today, I have really one of the brilliant thinkers of our time point, who’s the CEO of Remo, one of my favourite online platforms. So if you don’t know what Remo is, first off, you got to go there, and check it out and then come back and listen to the podcast because it is incredible. So let me introduce him. He’s a serial entrepreneur, his core passion is really helping businesses to grow with software tools. Now he’s worked with some big brands, Nike and Best Buy and Kaiser before he developed Remo and got into this whole way of making creativity, authentic conversations, and meaningful connections for people in an environment, which is like a live conference room. It’s amazing. There’s different floors, you can double click on people and go meet them. It’s so cool. So thank you so much for taking time to be in the podcast. Say hello.

Hoyin Cheung 01:42

Hey, Patti. Well, first of all, thank you so much for inviting me. I’m super excited. I’m really looking forward to the podcast. So thanks for inviting me.

Patti Dobrowolski 01:49

Yeah. So first off, tell us your story. Like how did you get into doing this, I know you work for big brands before this. But tell us a little bit about you growing up, and then how you got into doing software development, etc.

Hoyin Cheung 02:03

Sure. When I grew up, like my dad was really into technology, like he bought, you know, those really MS DOS, Windows 3.1, like really old school computers. And they weren’t very user friendly. But back in the day, I was always really interested in technology, my dad played like a really big role. And then once on that, and so when I kind of grew up like an after growing up, but just going to college and always wanted to, you know, I was always interested in technology. And then I read a lot about businesses and startups. And you know, prior to 2001, there’s always your voice started to hear about the.com and the.com, boom and stuff like that. So I’ve always was interested in doing something. But at that time, I graduated, like after the.com Boom, and but I just didn’t know what to do. After graduating. I worked at a bank before I did magic consulting for a while. And then it slowly moved towards technology. So when I was consulting, I was helping like large brands like Nike and all them. These fortune 500 companies figure out what they wanted to do with their data centres, their infrastructure, their routers, like their AI stuff. Yeah. And at that point in time is when I was started introduced to remote working, because as a management consultant, like most of like my team members, and you know, everyone who I work with in my company, and with a client, we’re not always we’re flying everywhere, but we’re also communicating through conference calls and everything. And so.

Patti Dobrowolski 03:29

That’s one of the most boring mediums in the world, the conference call, right?

Hoyin Cheung 03:34

Exactly. And that kind of already started getting me into what the challenges were.

Patti Dobrowolski 03:39Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 03:40

About communication. And so when I started coming on my own and developing my own ideas and trialling an error, one thing led to another and it eventually kind of led to remote, I can absolutely share the story as well.

Patti Dobrowolski 03:53

Well, that’s fantastic. I want you to share that piece. So you know, you grew up in a family where technology was normal to investigate that. And I think that the fact that you were solving a problem, right that you were having, because I know I mean, honestly, I trained in that environment.So I would like write people’s names on a post it note and I’d stick them in front of me. So I imagined that they were in the space. Because otherwise how would I remember who was there? We able to call on them by name? So I love that. So then where did you get the idea for Remo? And then how did you develop it?

Hoyin Cheung 04:28

Yeah, sure. So right after I left, the sort of traditional corporate job, I started to like develop different ideas. And I started developing remote teams as a way to be lean in a way to hire great people and finding great people.

Patti Dobrowolski 04:45

They didn’t have to leave their home. Yeah, yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 04:48I

mean, at that time, like I didn’t really call it remote working. I mean, at the time, I was just like, I’m just outsourcing or finding a contractor to kind of be you know, you know, just do work like it wasn’t, you know, back in the day Prior to 2019, or 2020, it wasn’t like remote work wasn’t was a fringe trend really?Patti Dobrowolski 05:05

Right.

Hoyin Cheung 05:05

So I started my businesses like that some more, some did end up landing on developing a social media SAS company, that’s mostly Instagram, people with Instagram accounts. They’re like, you know, small businesses, a lot of like lifestyle businesses, they wanted to increase their engagement and get more followers. And so my software helped them do that. So with that I had 25 people that worked for the company at that time. And it was something that I started feeling the strain in having all 25 people work remotely, and not be able to connect actually lost a few people, because I couldn’t maintain a good relationship, a connection with them, and people who were living like halfway across the world.

Patti Dobrowolski 05:47

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 05:48

And so I then started to like, at some point, you know, I want to do something else I wanted to change and do something bigger than.

Patti Dobrowolski 05:55

Just Instagram and things.

Hoyin Cheung 05:56

Social Media software. Yeah, I want to do something a little bit more bigger than that. So I started to think about what were some of the challenges, and what was a long term trend that I wanted to go for. And I felt remote work is a long term trend, like I believe that eventually, maybe 10 years, or I don’t know, maybe five, six years from right from 2019. People would be like, Yeah, okay, remote work.

Patti Dobrowolski 06:21

But then the explosion happens, right?

Hoyin Cheung 06:24

Yeah, little did I know, that was gonna happen like the following year. And so when we first created, we were trying to create a virtual office. So right, more for like, you know, trying to replicate those hallway conversations. Yeah, where you would have you would walk by someone? And how’s it going? Like, oh, you know, how’s your dog, how’s your kid.

Patti Dobrowolski 06:46

So the bonding, the bonding experience you wanted to so that people were actually having a real relationship, but in a virtual environment.

Hoyin Cheung 06:55

You know, the serendipity, you know, the chance, you know, the luck of meeting people, I think that’s really important in life, I can share a little bit more about that. But like, with that serendipity, I think it was really important for the human experience for the human condition.

Patti Dobrowolski 07:10

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 07:10

And I felt that was really important replicate. So we tried, we built it, we try to sell it. And it was kind of like a classic, you know, startup tragedy, you know, because like, I interviewed the 20, people like 20, fully remote CEOs and ask them, What is your biggest challenge? And they all said, you know, connecting with each other with the biggest challenge, right, like, Great, I’m gonna build that thing to help you to solve your top challenge, right? I built it and went back to all of them. And they did buy. Oh, I built this virtual office, it was like a map. So you know, just to share it with your audience. Like, imagine you’re looking at a Google Map. You press on the button where like, shows you where you are, it’s like this little circle, yes. Imagined zooming all the way in into where you are, where you see yourself in a building and you zoom in, we can see the chairs and the tables. Yeah, your circle is sitting on a chair. Right. But it’s not just a circle. It’s your face is on that circle.

Patti Dobrowolski 08:10

Okay, so you had like your own avatar, yeah?

Hoyin Cheung 08:13

Yeah, exactly your own avatar. And if you clicked on a different table, your circle avatar would move to that table, and you would see the video streams of the people on that table. So it kind of replicated, like each tables, collected some conversation, and replicated that kind of dynamic of how conversations actually flow in real life. We did that for virtual office, we then had the opportunity to basically like sponsor this virtual Summit. So it’s just basically like, we call now these virtual conferences. It’s like three days, you know, 10,000 people went through it. And I said, Hey, what about these virtual summits that they were pre-recorded? Okay, this is 2019. Oh, yeah. Are you more supported videos, and you would attend the event, you wouldn’t meet a single person, all you know, list of videos, and you just watch them one at a time?

Patti Dobrowolski 09:03

Yeah, boring is that’s terrible. That’s not what a conference really is about. Because the most fun is when you go out on break, and you have food and you you know, or you randomly move to another table because you want to meet people.

Hoyin Cheung 09:16

When we said, hey, you know what, don’t do that. Let me like modify our product from a virtual office into a conference change. It repackage it a little bit. Same engineer repackage it. And said, you know, like this, make it like a real conference. And people kind of go through it. And you’d have live talks and chat with each other blah, blah, blah. And so, you know, after the conference, like it was so funny, we didn’t sell a single virtual office. Nothing. It was like crickets. So like.

Patti Dobrowolski 09:44

It’s so truly entrepreneurial experience right here, what you’re talking about, yes.

Hoyin Cheung 09:51

100%. It’s like, typical, like startup tragedy, and so that we asked them like, Hey, how’s your experience? They’re like, Oh, my God, the experience was amazing. was great, I can attempt to be more blah. Great. So, you know, we have this product called virtual offices like we would what? I don’t care about the virtual office. I want to host my event on that platform as a conference. Yeah. Remote conference. Yeah, as a conference, and I was like, Yeah, you know, but we’re not a conference product. And when people started saying it more to me, I was like, Okay, maybe we have something here. You know, it was literally night and day.

Patti Dobrowolski 10:26

Well, and then you had to pivot from this one product you had to this, this other product. So talk about that kind of a change between doing this Office product, which you probably had pretty dialled in to this other event platform. What happened then?

Hoyin Cheung 10:42

I mean, because like one side of me was like, Oh, I don’t want to give up on the virtual office. I just started, it’s been a few months, like, have I tried enough? You know? Yeah, like, yeah, I don’t want to be too wishy washy and jump around to too many different things. Do you mean like, yes, I want to make sure that I gave some good punches before I change it up. Exactly. So I did some more testing. I sold a little bit more for another two months. But I also did more testing with the conference side. And I talked to more people and the traction kind of just kept on flowing, like it just floated downhill. Whereas the other way was like, uphill.

Patti Dobrowolski 11:21

Against the against the wild. But it isn’t that wild. Because when you think that this world that we’re living in now, you’d still want that office environment. That’s what’s crazy about it. So you did this other thing, and Remo became the thing that launched really.

Hoyin Cheung 11:36

Right, so Remo. So then eventually, I pivoted because I was like, why am I working so hard here when it feels so easy? Over here?

Patti Dobrowolski 11:44

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 11:44

So I was just like, I’m just gonna go down the path of least resistance here. Yeah. Yeah. So you must have had a really slimmed staff at that point. Right. And then that must have really exploded what you had to do and become in order to meet the need. How did you do that?

Patti Dobrowolski 11:48

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 11:48

And then I just decided to pivot. And when we started pivoting, the conversations became easier to be honest. Like, every time when I talked to someone, they were happy, and I was happy. And I just felt, I want to be depressed. I don’t want to be No, you want to be happy, right? And so it felt right. I can’t explain it. It just felt right. People were sink, write things about the product. I didn’t know how to monetize it. But I just did a lot of testing and just work with people a lot. Yeah, and this is prior to the pandemic 2019, by the end of 2019, remote work started to really catch on, like Silicon Valley was about it. And so is at the end of 2018, q4, and the time was just impeccable for Silicon Valley. And so the when it came when the whole kind of tsunami came from the pandemic, you know, we were just it gets in the right place at the right time.  Yeah, I mean, we had six people, like in February. And then we were making, like, $6,000 a month or something like that. In like, February, and then we broke even in April. And then like, we just had so many leads. So like I was I remember, just talking to people every single day, every day was like, I need a platform. Now. My Event is next week. Like it was like everyone’s hands on fire.

Patti Dobrowolski 13:19

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 13:20

And so it was just a blur. You know, it was just like, I was trying to sell as fast as I could. And people started coming in and working with us. And I was very lucky that we hired great people at the very beginning, made some really lucky moves. And that really just helped catapult us really, really far out for the rest of the year. So it was a good time again, you know, glad I just met the right people.

Patti Dobrowolski 13:44

Yeah. And you know, you talked about this the concept of synchronicity. And, you know, for me, that synchronicity happened for you, when you realised, oh, the conference for 10,000 people was so much better of an opportunity. But you took advantage of that you still like played around within the other space, because you had invested so much time and I think that’s one of the things that is so true. You know, we have our things we’ve birthed and we love them. And they’re fantastic. But eventually, we have to like no, this thing is what’s the thing that people really need? So how many employees do you have now?

Hoyin Cheung 14:23

About 100?

Patti Dobrowolski 14:24

Yeah, I thought it must be at least that amount, because and how many events do you host on Remo.

Hoyin Cheung 14:31

Each day? It’s like a round about like, the latest numbers is about like 12,000 events a month.

Patti Dobrowolski 14:37

Yeah. Okay. So, if you’re just, you know, think about this, from 1000 to a year later, two years later, right. 12,000 in a month. That’s insane. But you’ve stabilised the platform and a lot of ways there are new always what I love about the way that you’ve run remote is that you always come on in Talk about the features, you know, you talk about what’s new, you’re always listening to your customer in such a great way. So what are you excited about? Because that’s exciting to me that that all became like that. But what’s exciting to you?

Hoyin Cheung 15:15

So for me, like, my whole goal has always been, how do you create authentic conversations that build meaningful relationships. And that’s been the mission that I’ve always had. And what excites me the most is being able to stretch the boundary of that continually, like, at the end of the day, Remo, I, in my mind is an experiential company, like we do help businesses, but we do some things that businesses don’t ask for. And so some ways, we’re kind of like a consumer product. Because consumer products, you know, a Steve Jobs was really famous, like saying, like, don’t listen to the customer, like you have your own vision to create, because the customers don’t know what good looks like.

Patti Dobrowolski 15:54

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 15:55

And then.

Patti Dobrowolski 15:56

Would you say that’s true? Is that true for Remo too.

Hoyin Cheung 16:00

So this is kind of how I think, the grand vision of what you’re trying to build, yeah, that the customer won’t know. Like, they won’t know that the iPhone is like the best way of how it should look like like that core, like just innovation that has to be from the company from product, but the specifics of how they use it, whether what are they using it in their lives? Is it matching the problems that they’re working with those types of specific things, those the customers have to tell you, and those are things that you must listen, because those are the things that make their job easier, or, you know, optimise certain parts of it makes the journey and makes the whole feeling like overall like journey better. That part you kind of have to listen to them. And so it’s a mixture of both. But the only way to be innovative, in my mind is really from product and from the company itself. Yeah, customers won’t tell you. They’re like this really, really innovative kind of thing. They’ll have some ideas, but those not necessarily are the ideas that you may want to pursue, like some of them. Yes. And some who may not be.

Patti Dobrowolski 17:11

Yeah. Now, what do you think in this whole process of creating Remo? What’s been the most challenging for you?

Hoyin Cheung 17:18

To be honest, like, I think the pandemic I mean, it’s a kind of weird thing to say, right? Because you would say, well, the pandemic was of help to me. Yes, it has. But I think also the pandemic has also made it challenging for us as a company to figure out how to plan and a longer time span and how to find a new normal and to build a sustainable business. Because think about it. The pandemic is something that is not sustainable. Right. We know it will go away.

Patti Dobrowolski 17:48

Yeah, they’ll revert back to some kind of hybrid event or right, right, exactly. It is Remo Right.

Hoyin Cheung 17:57

Exactly. So for me, it looks like you are a ship going through a fog. You see these lights, fate lights, and you see multiple lights, but which is the light that you need to steer towards? Yeah, you don’t know. Yeah, it’s not clear. We’re waiting for the fog to clear to see what lies ahead. And when you see Omicron we see all these new things coming up like yeah, it’s prolonging the fog.

Patti Dobrowolski 18:22

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 18:22

But really, we just want the fog to clear as quick as possible. Yeah, you know, yes, it did help us. But for long term sustainability, you know, remote is extremely aligned with everyone else in the world. It’s not like, no, we want the pandemic that continues a weekend continue, like, you know, selling and all that kind of stuff. No, like, that’s just not realistic. And so that, to me, is one of the hardest is actually honestly one of the hardest things.

Patti Dobrowolski 18:48

Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s almost like you want to have the holodeck, right. So the holodeck so that you can go in there that anybody could go in there. And they could engage and play in a way that they could grab and use objects. And so somehow that VR quality, you know, you’ve created this kind of, it’s a three dimensional because you actually are in there, and you feel like you’re in this space, and you’re engaging with people by zoom. When you drop into this space, and you can move around in there, you can go out and see vendors, you can do all kinds of things. Right. But the main thing I think that is fascinating to me is that what will happen when things stabilise because they will, and then what will your brand look like then? Is that what’s keeping you up at night?

Hoyin Cheung 19:34

Yeah, I mean, it’s fine to know what that future new normal looks like. Yes, I would say that that is something that is on top of mind because the customer that we had during the pandemic is a different customer after the pandemic. Yeah, think about it. We kind of have to pivot again.

Patti Dobrowolski 19:52

Yes, yes.

Hoyin Cheung 19:53

You have to pivot again. And so I think the journey never ends you know, like it doesn’t end yet. We’re not out of the woods yet. We had a great starts, we got a really great boost. But you know, the story hasn’t ended yet. We’re just going into another chapter.

Patti Dobrowolski 20:07

Well, yeah, and I think that what’s interesting to me is you came up with an idea based on a need you realise that wasn’t quite the idea that this other thing was what people needed right now. And then the pandemic made it really clear that was the need that people had. So no matter how big a group you’re meeting with, you can meet in Remo, you know, it’s not dependent on size. You can do it for large conferences, but you could do it for small meetings. Right. So the other thing that is curious to me is when you envision the future for you as an entrepreneur, because you’re the one that developed this, right, and so what I know about the entrepreneurial mindset is that we are always wanting to do the next new thing. So when you think about the future for you, what do you envision, like in your world? What would you like that to be? Like? What would you like to experience, see, or grow in yourself as an entrepreneur? What’s fascinating right now?

Hoyin Cheung 21:04

Okay, so there’s two things. I mean, from a experiential stamp, I can share with that, like, I think VR is definitely a future. I think it is a future that we’ll eventually get to. But I think there’s a lot of things about the human condition that we’re not communicating yet. I mean, yeah, there’s a ratio like that says 60% of communication is nonverbal. Yes, all body language. And right now, video doesn’t really do a good job with that, like, I can see your head nod, I can see like your chest upwards, but I don’t really feel Patti, you here.

Patti Dobrowolski 21:43

That’s right.

Hoyin Cheung 21:43

Absorbing all those body language signals. I think I’m really interested in that. I’m passionate about that. Like, my goal is to how can because by the way, if you’re in VR, you have the same problems.

Patti Dobrowolski 21:56

Yes.

Hoyin Cheung 21:56

But if you think about it in VR, if you created a 3D avatar that the challenge with 3D avatar is, if you’re going to give me something 3D, you’re trying to trick me, and it’s trying to be photorealistic. My immediate expectation, yeah. Is that you better be really, really real. You seem that small. That’s just a little bit off.

Patti Dobrowolski 22:20

Yeah.

Hoyin Cheung 22:20

Breaks the illusion. It makes the illusion. Yes. Yes. Micro gestures of your face. Yeah, a little bit odd. Or like they don’t move in a natural way humans pick up on that, yeah, immediately just shuts your head and says, This is not real.

Patti Dobrowolski 22:35

This well and your garden, that’s what’s happening is that you become it triggers that part of your amygdala, you’re not going to engage in a way, right?

Hoyin Cheung 22:43

And so for me, video is still the best way number one is actually super space. Number two is like, I think there’s a lot of things that can be done through video through 2d, that easy, that can’t be done. So that’s technology. That’s just that personal standpoint. Like for me, I think it’s continuing to like innovate and take risks, and be able to continue to find great things that really kind of flow and just do really well and just tackle like, different industry verticals, and just finding the right people to help do that. Like, for me, it’s a lot about having great conversations with people, finding people who have similar vision and share the vision that I have, and getting these people together to then go tackle these other use cases, these other things. That to me is exciting. That to me is like remote, not just for universities, or professional associations or corporates like you can go into other areas as well. That’s kind of like.

Patti Dobrowolski 23:36

Real world problems? Yeah, and big thinking and art projects and collaboration of any kind, right? Well, I love that. And so when you are thinking about, you know, or want to give advice to anybody who’s listening, who might feel like, Oh, I’m caught in an entrepreneurial trap right now, and I need to pivot out of it. What advice would you give them?

Hoyin Cheung 24:00

Yeah, I mean, roller coaster is real. And I would say, you have to be really open minded, in thinking different ways that whatever you’re doing, yeah, it could be someone else or something can find use for it, and set yourself a timeline. Like give yourself a certain amount of time to discover enough. And if you cannot find that within that timeframe, then it might be better to then consider something else. There’s nothing wrong with giving up on something. As long as you gave it enough time. Really, it’s more of like, what did you learn so you can plan again on the next thing and just keep trying, sometimes you have to try several times. Like it’s like, you know, playing the guitar, you know, you try to play the guitar and one song the whole way through the first time you play the guitar, that one song, you’re not going to be able to play it the whole way through, you’re going to fail several times playing through that song. Just got to do it several times until you can play through the whole song. So you got to go through it several failures in some sense. So failure should be expected. Yeah, excess is unexpected. It’s like, oh, wow, look, I figured it out. Like, oh, this is nice. Like that is what it should be more of like be optimistic, but also have some realism as well.

Patti Dobrowolski 25:16

I love that. And I think that that, to me, is what your whole company is about. And it’s one of the things in our session when we had that’s what you kept saying to people, you have to be willing to fail, you have to be willing to make mistakes in order to grow and change and to find the right solution. And so that is fantastic advice. All right. Is there anything else that you want to tell us about remote or you before we let people go on to explore the platform themselves? Anything else?

Hoyin Cheung 25:46

Yeah, come to Remo.co, we’ve got many ways you can try the platform, we have an open space, we have demo, we have a demo we can give, you can contact any of us. The best ways to go to rule, the best would experience remote and you will immediately feel it and understand what it’s about. I could sell to you and share with you as many times as I want. As many times as you are I want it doesn’t matter. You go into an event, you’ll feel it, you’ll automatically get it.

Patti Dobrowolski 26:11

It’s so true. I mean, that’s how I fell in love with remotes. I went in there to an event that was happening. And I was like, oh my god, this is exactly what I need. This is exactly what I want to be using. So that I can have a true experience with people that feels like they’re sitting right next to me. And I can move around and meet other people in a conference space. It’s beautiful. I love it. I love what you can build in it. And I can’t wait to see what else you come up with because it’s always amazing. Well, thank you so much for taking time with us today. All right, everybody, you know the drill. If you’d go down there, you know, be sure to look at the show notes for how you can connect with Hoyin and Remo go there right away. Check it out. And thank you so much. Until next time Up Your Creative Genius. Thanks so much for listening today. Be sure to DM me on Instagram your feedback or takeaways from today’s episode on Up Your Creative Genius. Then join me next week for more rocket fuel. Remember, you are the superstar of your universe and the world needs what you have to bring. So get busy. Get out and Up Your Creative Genius. And no matter where you are in the universe, here’s some big love from yours truly Patti Dobrowolski and the Up Your Creative Genius podcast. That’s a wrap.

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