Winter Wong founded Quoord Systems, the company behind the popular Tapatalk Forum App for iPhone and Android smartphones. Winter graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor of computer science and has over 10 years of software engineering experience. Prior to Tapatalk, he was the Program Manager at Hewlett Packard, and a Software Engineer at IBM. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Winter and ask him a few questions.
You're the creator of the popular Tapatalk smartphone forum app.Â For those readers who aren't familiar with Tapatalk, can you give us a brief overview of this app?
Sure. Tapatalk is a mobile app that makes it easy for mobile users to get in touch with their online discussion on the go. The app has transformed the web-based Safari pinch and zoom experience with a dedicated forum app. It’s like a Facebook app, but made for accessing forums. It has become very popular. Â Many forum owners have activated Tapatalk in their forums.
What other projects are you and your team working on currently?
Currently, this is the only project we are focusing on. In the meantime, we have also partnered with other major forum providers and community owners to tailor-make their own app, powered by the Tapatalk technology. So far this strategy has served us well, as it allows us to focus on enhancing the overall Tapatalk experience.
How do you keep your entrepreneurial focus? Do you have any suggestions for entrepreneursÂ who are experiencing challenging times?
An old Chinese saying goes: “Startup is easy to start but hard to sustain.” The most challenging thing for entrepreneurs is to stay focused on solving a particular problem. For Tapatalk, we wanted to solve the problem of accessing forums on mobile phones. There were a lot of distractions and temptations along the way, diverting us to do different things. The way I keep focused is to always have a moment of reflection, to realize potential distractions we are falling into, and to correct it as soon as possible.
We've also had a fair share of challenging moments, including a poor product launch, poor sales, and poor adoption rate. Usually theÂ challengesÂ were not so much about the monetary issue but the morale issue. To keep yourself motivated, try to talk to more people, especially the users who love using your product.
The most valuable advice came from users who use our product, not from friends or partners. It tookÂ discipline to listen to them, and it took a lot of hard work to execute what they recommended. These helped us overcome challenges, and I personally believe it is theÂ foundationÂ of our success.
Rapid growth and expansion can be a good "problem" for businesses. You’ve seen some quick growth with the Tapatalk app. How do you handle your company’s growth?
What we are trying to do is to minimize work that is not core to our business. For example, we had spent a lot of effort in building our own servers and maintaining databases. At one point, it became obvious that this kind of work wasÂ jeopardizingÂ our businessÂ efficiency and should go to AmazonÂ clouds. Our tech guy could have been solving more product bugs instead of monitoring the database. My advice is, don’t try to save money by doing everything yourself. It is worth it to pay someone to take care of it.
Where did your Quoord Systems funding/capital come from and how did you go about getting it?
Initially I was hoping to get some investments to get the project started, but I ended up funding the entire startup from my savings. For internet businesses, especially a mobile internet startup, you don’t really need a lot of money to implement the prototype. The hardest part is to form a core team to hack things out and burn the midnight oil together.
Is your company profitable?
Our company currently is profitable and we are working to make it sustainable in the long-run.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who plan to becomeÂ entrepreneurs?
My first advice is to have a habit to save money. Instead of spending money on expensive holiday packages or a nice car, save the money for your startup. It takes a lot of distraction and effort to pitch someone to invest in your startup. You might as well use the energy and your savings to build something worthwhile immediately.
My second advice is, if you intend to be an entrepreneur but for various reasons you can’t do it now, you should look for a smaller company to work for, instead of the multi-national companies that tend to pay well with a seemingly better “career path.” You will learn a whole lot more in smaller companies, as you will have better access to the real business decision making process.
My third advice is to do more research of your potential competitors before you start your business. Very often you tend to ignore competitors. You're aware of them but never spend enough time looking into their work. If they are already successful, then ask yourself what will make your startup even more successful than them. If they are struggling, then askÂ yourselfÂ what problems they are having and how you can solve them with your startup.
How do you define success?
PersonallyÂ I believe success is not determined by how much money you are making. For example, you wouldn’t call someone successful if they won a lottery – it is unrepeatable, and one learns nothing from it. I care more about the journey to success. I want to make sure I enjoy it. With a supportive family and by working hard, success will knock on your door eventually.
Good luck to all youngÂ entrepreneurs!