May 27

Althea raises $3.5M to sell Korean beauty products online in Southeast Asia

Althea, a Korea-based company that exports and sells cosmetics and beauty products to Southeast Asia, has closed a $3.5 million Series A round for expansion.

A report co-authored by Google this week tipped Southeast Asia’s internet economy to grow six-fold to reach $200 billion annually in the next decade, with e-commerce set to account for over 40 percent of that figure. But, with a cumulative population of over 600 million, the region is already seen as lucrative opportunity for many online retailers — among them, Alibaba recently invested $1 billion in Rocket Internet-backed Lazada.

Althea, which was launched in July 2015, aims to take advantage of the popularity of Korean culture — such as K-Pop and Korean drama series — in the region. Founded by ex-Ticket Monster duo Frank Kang and Christopher Cynn alongside CFO Jae Yoon Kim, the Korean startup sells to consumers in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines with plans to enter Southeast Asia’s two other major markets — Thailand and Vietnam — before the end of this year.

This new funding round is provided by a range of investors that include Mirae Asset Ventures, Posco Ventures, 500 Startups, Tekton Ventures and Cherubic Ventures with the aim of carrying out that market expansion, adding to the company’s 25 staff with new hires, and investing in marketing and logistics.

There are plenty of companies also exporting Korean beauty products. The most notable example is Memebox, which graduated Y Combinator and has raised close to $30 million from investors, but Memebox is focused on Western markets while Althea is looking only at Southeast Asia for now.

The startup prides itself on bringing new products to market in Southeast Asia first thanks to a sourcing team on the ground in Korea, CEO Frank Kang told TechCrunch in an interview. That’s important for beauty brands in Korea, which Kang pegs at 10,000, because they need a dedicated route to overseas sales.

“Our plan is to really build a brand, so we’re really focused on trendy items with a lot of potential [and] products that have not been introduced yet,” Kang explained. “The aim is to be the number one marketing generation platform for Korean brands in Southeast Asia.”

The past year of work seems to be going well, with Althea claiming 500,000 monthly unique visitors and an annualized run rate of over $10 million in revenue. The company said it is growing at 30 percent per month and is on track to reach profitability by the end of this year.

Althea, which has an office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but exports all products directly out of Korea, is solely focused on Southeast Asia for now, but Kang admitted that it could expand its horizons in the future.

“Our business is scalable so we can consider any market and any country, but we want to focus on Southeast Asia because it is the second largest region for Korean exports behind only China. We really want to conquer this market first [since the] competition is stronger in China and the U.S.,” he said.

“We need to grow to scale first, then we could consider other parts of the world but that’s the long term future,” Kang added.

More immediately, Althea plans to introduce its own label products by early next year. The company is in the early stages of working on this now, but Kang admitted that the startup will probably need to raise another round of funding in order to bring its own brand to market.

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May 26

Meet the web link shortening company eyeing $100M revenues

And it seems to be paying off. The company turned profitable in 2015, saw 40 to 50 percent year-on-year revenue growth last year and creates 400 million links a month generating about 12 billion clicks.

It has 10 million monthly users on its free service and 1,000 paying customers, including half of the Fortune 100, according to Josephson.

On average, a subscription costs $1,000 per month. Over the course of a year this would be about $12,000. Bitly typically signs brands up to one or two year subscriptions and it costs $12,000 to acquire one customer. So the majority of customers are profitable straightaway, Josephson said.

Bitly is also looking at its eleventh consecutive quarter of so-called net negative churn – when the growth of revenue from existing accounts outweighs the negative impact of customers leaving. This is a key metric for subscription businesses. Josephson said the start-up can be a $50 million to $100 million revenue business in up to four years. Bitly is eyeing revenues of $20 million this year.

While Bitly is on the right path, it clearly won’t be plain sailing. Twitter has developed its own link shortening tool while other start-ups like Clkim also operate in the same space.

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May 25

Make It Work: How to Fix 5 Common Online Marketing Strategy Mistakes

If your online marketing strategies aren’t generating the results you were hoping for, one or more of these common marketing mistakes may be to blame.

Online marketing strategies can be highly effective when used correctly, but there is a definite margin for error.

If you are making any of these common marketing mistakes, you may be effectively sabotaging your own efforts instead of helping your business succeed.

To help ensure your marketing efforts are helping, not hurting your business, we’ve got examples of five mistakes business make, and some simple online marketing tips that should get your strategies back on track.

Related Article: A Look Inside: What Will Be the Big Online Marketing Trends for 2016?

1. Your Website Isn’t Optimized to Show Up on Top Search Results

What to do instead: Apply SEO tactics to gain a higher search position.

Ninety-five percent of customers only look on the first page of Google results when they are searching for services or products online, according to market research. That means that if your website isn´t showing up in the first page of search results, you´re essentially invisible to potential customers.

Applying SEO or Search Engine Optimization will improve your website´s position in search results. Through the use of keywords, links, content, and social media strategies, an SEO expert can optimize your website so it gains a more prominent visibility with Google and the other search engines.

2. Your Website Doesn’t Perform Well on Mobile Devices

What to do instead: Switch to a responsive web design.

If your website offers a poor user experience when accessed by visitors using mobile devices, it can cost you customers and significantly damage your bottom line. Eighty percent of consumers use a smartphone to access the Internet, according to insights from the Global Web Index. With this many people searching on their phone, you want to make sure your site has a flawless responsive design.

People aren’t going to stick around if your site is difficult to navigate or access on their mobile device. Forty percent of mobile consumers have gone to a competitor’s website after a bad mobile web experience, according to Google´s Mobile Playbook

Not only are you looking to improve user experience, but Google and other search engines show preference to sites that are mobile friendly, so you aren’t going to be helping your organic search rankings with a site that isn’t mobile friendly. 

Switching to a mobile-friendly responsive web design can turn your under-performing website into one of your most effective online marketing strategies. Responsive web designs automatically adjust navigation features, type, and viewing areas to deliver flawless performance on every device.

Making sure your site is properly coded to show the necessary information in a mobile-friendly format for mobile devices without getting dinged by google or other search engine’s systems is key.

Once you upgrade to a responsive web design, your customers will have a superior experience no matter how they access your website, so they never have to seek out competitors´ sites instead.

Related Article: Into the Crystal Ball: 4 Online Marketing Predictions for 2016

3. Trying to Use Too Many Social Media Channels at Once

What to do instead: Narrow your focus to three or four channels to start

Since you’re eager to see your business succeed, it can be tempting to try to establish a presence on every social media marketing strategy that your customers may be using.

The problem with that is there are literally hundreds of social media marketing platforms that are active on the internet. Trying to engage visitors on too many social sites is not going to help your business succeed. You’re just going to find yourself producing thin content or posting inconsistently because you’re pressed for time.

Scale back your social marketing efforts and focus on just the three or four platforms that are most popular with your customers. You’ll find your social marketing strategies are much more effective when you have the time send out well-written posts on a consistent schedule.

4. Adopting a “One Size Fits All” Email Marketing Strategy

What to do instead: Segment your subscriber list and send out personalized offers

You know your customers aren’t all the same, so why would you expect a single email newsletter to generate a universally positive response?

Your customers have different interests, are in different places in the sales funnel, and are searching for different products and services. Sending out the same email to all your subscribers just doesn’t make good marketing sense, because there’s no single offer that will hold a universal appeal.

Segmenting your subscriber list can turn your failing email marketing campaign into one of your most effective online marketing strategies. Separate your subscribers into three or four groups according to their interests, demographics, or other marketing metrics.

Send out tightly targeted email newsletters with personalized discounts or offers designed to appeal to each segment. You’ll achieve a higher click-through rate with these personalized offers, a MailChimp survey found that using segmented email campaigns can generate a click rate more than 50 percent higher than with non-segmented lists.

Related Article: Is Boring Better? The Case for Plain Jane Online Marketing

5. You’re Not Sure Which of Your Marketing Strategies Are Actually Working

What to do instead: Start using analytics to refine your marketing strategies’ focus

If you aren’t checking to see which of your marketing strategies are actually generating results, you can end up wasting your valuable time and resources on initiatives that aren’t doing anything to help your business.

Every interaction your visitors have with your online marketing strategies produces information that you can use to judge how effectively each strategy is marketing your business.

Google offers several free web analytic tools to help you mine this information. Use them to check which of your posts and blogs inspire the most click-throughs, which generate the most actionable leads, and which strategies are getting a pass from your customers.

With the in-depth information you gain about your visitors’ behavior, you can adjust your online marketing strategies to make them more effective.

Use these insights to refine your marketing strategies – drop the strategies that don’t work, concentrate on the ones that are garnering the best response, and you’ll achieve a much better overall ROI for your online marketing strategies.


Online marketing strategies can be highly effective marketing tools when used correctly. As long as you keep the focus on what works for your customers and monitor your strategies’ performance, you’ll be able to make your online marketing efforts more effective than ever before.

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May 24

Online Retailers Should Care More About the Post-Purchase Experience

In 2005 A.G. Lafley, who at the time was CEO of the world’s largest advertiser, Procter Gamble, introduced a marketing concept he called “the moment of truth” for building brand loyalty. Soon retail brands aligned their strategies around two critical moments: 1) when a customer decides whether to purchase a product, and 2) when a customer uses the product for the first time. With the rise of new technologies like the internet and mobile, there are additional critical junctures for increasing the buying likelihood, including at the research stage. Five years ago, online review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor led to Google introducing the zero moment of truth, a crucial part of the buying process. Meanwhile, stats show that half of e-commerce is now done on mobile, heralding in the mobile moment of truth.

Today, retail brands create customer experiences around these four moments and focus on driving shoppers to click the “buy” button. Yet it’s important for brands to remember this is not the end of the journey for the customer. Rather, it’s the beginning of a relationship. When a customer makes a purchase online, there’s an “experience gap” from the time the customer checks out to when the product arrives. This is the new moment of truth for online shoppers. Providing a positive experience at this time of anticipation is a tremendous opportunity for retailers to deepen their relationships with customers and build loyalty for their brands. Surprisingly, only 16% of companies are focused on customer retention, even though it costs at least five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

Shoppers expect a seamless shopping experience — no matter where they are, what device they are using, or how they choose to shop. Brands understand this: 84% of retailers say creating a consistent customer experience across channels is very important. While product fulfillment was traditionally considered a supply chain function far removed from customer experience, the rise of the omnichannel shopper and on-demand services such as UberRUSH and Postmates are blurring those conventional lines. More than ever, customers want personalized shopping experiences throughout the entire journey, right up to how and when they receive their products.

Focusing on the post-purchase experience is the next frontier for online retailers. Previously, retailers handed off the customer experience to a third party, like FedEx or UPS, which focused on delivery. Now, retailers are extending the customer hand-holding post-purchase with beautiful branded interfaces, delivery visibility, and personalized content. By streamlining customers’ paths to purchase and bringing them back directly into the loyalty loop, brands can convert one-time shoppers into lifelong brand advocates.

Let’s take a closer look at Sephora, a retailer that is taking advantage of these new moments to engage with customers. (Sephora is a client, along with several of the other companies mentioned below.) The beauty giant’s success stems from its relentless pursuit to link a shopper’s experience throughout the entire customer journey across all channels: digital, mobile, and brick-and-mortar stores. For example, Sephora offers in-store customers the ability to get online makeup tutorials at stations called the “Beauty Workshop.” In the latest update to Sephora’s mobile app, an augmented reality feature now allows shoppers to view themselves moving in real time while trying on digital makeup.

But the personalized experience doesn’t end there. Even after they click “buy,” Sephora’s customers receive a branded delivery tracking page that displays the status of their shipment. At the same time, customers receive recommendations, deals and educational content to keep them excited about their purchases. Should a customer need to return a product, Sephora’s integrated returns solution demystifies complicated policies while providing the retailer with precise information about what’s coming back, when and why. Every step of the way, Sephora is trying to improve the customer experience and maximize loyalty.

Here are four key ways retailers can excel in the post-purchase experience:

Continue the conversation. One of the first things retailers can do is to own the post-purchase experience, rather than leave it up to chance by sending their customers off to third-party sites. Retailers like Nordstrom, REI, and Anthropologie have customized package tracking experiences that provide visibility into the delivery. Customers can also sign up for SMS notifications and find FAQs without needing to leave the branded experience. Not only are customers better informed and call center volume decreasing, these actions open up new marketing channels for retailers to reach an already captive audience.

Provide shoppers with relevant, personalized information. Customers awaiting delivery of their product are open to communications from the retailer, especially if it’s customized. 73% of customers prefer to buy from brands that use personal information to make shopping experiences more relevant. Birchbox, a monthly online beauty subscription service, gives customers a preview of what to look forward to with monthly videos of what’s in the box. Levi’s drives further customer engagement by promoting new products to existing customers based on their previous purchases and preferences using the post-purchase channel.

Transform a bad customer experience into an amazing experience. A lot can go wrong during the fulfillment process that can frustrate customers: a wrong item shipped, an incorrect address, a package delayed due to weather. While these instances may be out of a retailer’s control, they still reflect poorly on the brand. However, this doesn’t mean angry customers are lost forever. A brand’s ability to react to these circumstances in a timely manner is a huge opportunity to win back customers and create positive word-of-mouth. Companies like Gap and Bed Bath Beyond are capturing customer sentiments at the time of delivery, when problems are most likely to be discovered and reported. By monitoring customer’s behaviors and proactively taking action to help solve their problems quickly and easily, they’re winning back customers’ hearts.

Create an organizational environment that supports a great post-purchase experience. As customer experience becomes top priority for retailers, they must ensure internal teams within the organization are aligned. In particular, it is critical to foster a relationship between supply chain, e-commerce, and marketing teams in order to deliver an extraordinary post-purchase experience. In the past, these teams may have worked in silos, but any customer experience gone awry, whether related to supply chain or marketing, reflects poorly on the brand. When they work in tandem with the appropriate resources, budget, and metrics in place, retailers will be poised for success.

Retailers need to create an end-to-end customer journey, so customers come to love and crave interacting with them. A lifelong customer is not an accident — it’s the result of a bookended experience.

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May 23

I Quit My Job When Apple and Google Helped Me Start an Online Business

Four years ago I was a member of the beige army, working in a full-time job as a manager in a software company in Dublin, Ireland.

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May 22

China Mobile-Payment Battle Becomes a Free-for-All

The battle for the world’s biggest mobile-payment market is turning cutthroat.

Since Chinese consumers began adopting mobile payment a few years ago, Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has had a lock on the huge and growing market through its Alipay system, run by an affiliate company. But now leading domestic rival Tencent Holdings Ltd. is leveraging the popularity of its WeChat social-messaging app to increase its slice, and…

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May 21

Want to learn about investing? Read a good book

It isn’t Father’s Day yet, but I have been thinking quite a bit about mine after having spent the last week proofing my dad’s autobiography. Growing up in a Catholic orphanage in Detroit, and then at age 13 being sent out to make his own way in the world, he lived a life that would be quite foreign to most Americans today.

With just an eighth-grade education, he was easily the most intelligent and educated person I knew. He was an avid reader and lifetime pursuer of truth, leaving behind a massive library of books when he died. He preferred topics that educated the mind or enlarged the soul. The few works of fiction he owned would be those of a classical nature that taught great moral lessons.

My dad was not alive when Google filed for incorporation in 1998. With a stated mission to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible,” my Dad would have loved Google and the internet with its vast access to knowledge.

In recent years, I have begun to wonder if the internet has really made us any smarter, or has it just filled our minds with largely useless information. It seems to have turned us into a society obsessed with the pursuit of trivialities.

I was fascinated in 1998 when I first learned I could find the answer to any question on my computer. Now, when I seek answers, or even when I don’t, I am besieged by stories about aliens in New York, Cities on Venus, and endless conspiracy theories. The informational trash the world once reserved for the grocery store checkout line, now appears any time my kids want to find the answer to a simple geography question.

All this information leads to increased confusion among investors, who are constantly asking me if I heard about the secret plan to abolish the dollar, or that China is conspiring to send the U.S. back to the stone age. (Nevermind that China depends desperately on a healthy U.S. buying loads of their products). We once used the internet to search for truth. Now it is often the untruths of the internet that come searching for us.

Like my dad, I love to read a good book. The time and commitment required gives you the opportunity to evaluate the information, ponder the theories, and formulate a personal opinion. Today’s rapid fire internet delivery, often designed by marketing firms attempting to sell you something, generally seeks to bypass reason and go straight for an emotional reaction. When these headlines and emotionally charged claims overshadow serious thought, we are at risk of making poor investment decisions.

In many ways, the information-rich modern internet fails investors in their pursuit of knowledge and ideas. Taking regular breaks from modern media to ponder wisdom in an old-fashioned, well-written book, would likely result in far less investing mistakes. There are many great books to choose from. Feel free to contact me if you would like some recommendations.

Dan Wyson, CFP is author of the book “21 Financial Myths” and owner of Wyson Financial. 1173 S. 250 W  No. 505 St. George, UT 84770 — 435-986-9525 — Securities and Advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment advisor.

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May 20

Ousted Reddit Employees Form a Rival, Less Toxic Community Site

It’s true that the startup world is competitive, but not just from the outside — a former employee could turn into a real rival.

Imzy, a recently launched community platform that is staffed largely by a group of former Reddit employees, including its CEO and co-founder Dan McComas — previously Reddit’s head of product — has raised $3 million in funding to date and has brought on two big name content partners in Lena Dunham’s newsletter LennyLetter and Feral Audio, the podcast network co-founded by Community creator Dan Harmon.

Related: Stop Comparing Yourself to Competitors. Start Perfecting Your Craft.

McComas told Recode that the impetus behind founding the platform was to see if it was possible to remove the toxicity that is so often the baseline for online communities. “What if someone tried building a community platform from day one?” he asked. “Is the terribleness just an inherent part of the Internet [or] can communities be made online in a healthy way? It might not work out, but I hope it does.”

It stands to reason that if you are striking out on your own after quitting or being fired, that you would want to stick with a variation on what you know. And in case there was any confusion about whether Imzy is meant to rival Reddit, the newer site’s mascot — an adorable, smiling green alien creature — speaks volumes.

Related: Why You Should Focus on ‘Different’ and ‘Better,’ Not ‘More’

To access the site, users have to sign up for an invitation. Imzy is currently accessible on desktop and mobile devices, with Android and iOS apps on the way.

McComas is certainly far from the only ex-staffer of a tech company to set up a company operating in the same space. Former Facebook staffer Dave Morin launched embattled social network Path, which was bought by South Korean Internet company Daum Kakao last year. Before Marc Lore founded ecommerce startup, he logged time at Amazon after selling his first company, Quidsi, to the ecommerce giant. And after a public and litigious exit from dating app Tinder, the company’s co-founder and former VP of marketing Whitney Wolfe launched rival app Bumble.


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