Founded last September by three Chinese tech professionals based in Silicon Valley, Chinese tech blog Silicon Valley Insight has made a name for itself in the Chinese tech scene in just a few months, with their most-read story on the smart products being displayed at JD’s startup incubator receiving more than 1.9 million clicks!
Founder and CEO Paul Li is a product designer with 14 years of experience who has a master’s degree in Web Design & New Media at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He and co-founder Peter Qin started to write stories last May, before the company was officially set up.
There are now more than 10 members in Paul’s Silicon Valley-based team, and one marketer in Beijing. Their company focuses on four sections: stories, audio broadcasts, live videos of interviews with tech bosses, and a project for Chinese tech professionals to visit or study in Silicon Valley. They are now publishing seven stories a day and one live interview a week. They received RMB three million in angel financing last month.
Paul shared his experience running a tech blog in a phone interview with AllChinaTech.
ACT: How did you go from designing to founding Silicon Valley Insight?
Li: Last May, I was working as the product designer in a tech company while studying new media in San Francisco. I was very eager to find more content on mobile internet product design, but it turns out there were not very many media outlets doing in-depth analysis on products. So I thought, why not do it myself? On one hand, SV is filled with startups and technology products. On the other, writing and doing research are the best ways for me to learn.
The first story was on Pinterest, which I wrote with my friend Peter Qin, who is now the co-founder of Silicon Valley Insight. He is a network engineer. We analyzed the design of the app, including its UI design and infinite-scroll layout, the market, its business model and how it differs from similar apps. It got over 6,000 clicks, which was totally beyond our expectations. Then our second story on LUXE, the on-demand parking and valet service provider, got more than eleven times more clicks than the first one!
The surprising popularity of the first two stories told me that there are readers who want to read more in-depth analyses on popular tech products in America. So Peter and I started to get serious about disseminating the best ideas in Silicon Valley to more Chinese people. It’s so exciting, and it’s meaningful.
ACT: There are plenty of Chinese tech media sites, many of whom translate English articles into Chinese. What are your advantages compared with other Chinese media sites?
Li: I think the greatest advantage is that our team is based in the Silicon Valley. We know what the most popular apps in America are, and we can write about apps that are not available in China based on our experience using them. We can find out faster when new products and ideas pop up in Silicon Valley, and we also closely follow news from big tech companies. We published our story on the unveiling of Tesla’s Model X last September right after the press conference was over. We are also able to hold face-to-face interviews with CEOs and founders, and live stream the interviews on our website to our readers. Last month, our hit story was our interview with Zou Hao, the youngest investment committee member of PIMCO, right after he got famous for being chosen as the only Chinese in Forbes’ 30 Under 30.
Our second advantage is our team. We have overseas students from all over the world as our contributors. They have solid language competence in both English and Chinese, and also have professional backgrounds in technology. Other part-timers are either people working in the field or enthusiasts. Besides, product designers and engineers based in Silicon Valley are very zealous about sharing ideas and communicating with professionals in China. So we act as a platform for them, and get a bunch of content producers in return.
ACT: I saw that your platform has quite a few stories that got hundreds of thousands of page views. It is not easy for a tech media outlet to achieve this in just few months. How did you do it?
Li: We have around 200,000 WeChat followers, out of which a quarter are overseas Chinese-speaking readers. It’s not a very big number compared with those WeChat influencers, but most of them are active users. Our following has grown naturally without much marketing. They like our stories, I think. As I said before, with the insight brought to the stories by our writers, who have knowledge about the industry and the products, readers can actually get something from the story. Also, we do our best to cut out tech jargon and make them easy and fun to read. And we make extra effort to craft attractive headlines.
Another thing is that WeChat is not the only channel for our content. We have our own website and accounts in 10 social media platforms including major news portal NetEase and China’s biggest news aggregator Today’s Headline.
ACT: I noticed that Logic Talk Show has recommended Silicon Valley Insight. Does it help to work with a WeChat influencer?
Li: Logic Talk Show approached us after reading our stories. Together, we published e-books of Silicon Valley Insight stories to sell on their platform.
ACT: Monetization is hard for media companies right now. How do you plan to do it?
Li: We have figured out an overall strategy including a way to monetize. The new product is under development. It might come out in May.
(Top photo from Flickr @dirkb86)