Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! I’m Wanxi Yang, the founder, and CEO of Liklist. Liklist is a novel audio app for sharing life experiences. Which facial moisture is the most suitable for my skin type? What’s the best restaurant for the first date in Boston? What is traveling in Paris really like?
These are all questions one can find answers to on Liklist. And because Liklist encourages users to actually talk about their experiences by recording their voices with the audio recorder on our app, the content on the app feels more authentic and trustworthy.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m originally from China and have come to the US since high school. Although I never really visioned myself to found a startup, I think I’ve always wanted to try entrepreneurship. My parents were both entrepreneurs, and that greatly influenced how I saw the world.
I also found it vital to talk directly with the early adopters. I would personally message them and ask about their opinions and suggestions on certain features.
Two years ago, I came to Boston for my Master’s degree at Harvard. When I first arrived in Boston, I had a hard time navigating the city. I found it hard to make decisions on small things like which ice cream shop should I go to for my favorite flavors or which salon I should choose for dying my dark and thick hair.
The information I found online was either too generic or too superficial. That’s when I first realized how hard it is to learn about the authentic experiences of other people. I had a vague idea then that I could create an app specifically for sharing experiences.
When COVID first started, I decided to act upon the idea as I have more time. I first created a survey asking about people’s initial interests in this product and some potential categories of content they might be interested in. I sent the survey to my friends and also hired some people on Amazon Turks to get more objective answers. With good feedback from the survey, I began to sketch and design this product.
I have some product management experience from my internships and some skills in making prototypes from design courses. So I bootstrapped the first version of Liklist and iterated from there.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The designing and prototyping of our app is a team project. I created the prototype, which includes the screens of the most important features in the app. Meanwhile, I spent quite some time designing the workflow of the whole app. Throughout the process, I had friends testing out the prototype whenever I got the chance. With the prototype, I hired a designer to improve the UX experience and created the first version of Liklist.
We went through a lot of versions of the interface and are still working on improving the UX. Here’s a comparison between the first search screen (prototype) and the current one:
The app development took much more time than I expected. There were a lot of small technical issues along the way, and I had to learn many techniques on the spot. It was pretty hard at the beginning, but I learned a lot and came to enjoy the process.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Before the official launch, we tested out a beta version with a limited number of users. Because the beta worked pretty well, we were comfortable with an official launch quite quickly.
As more users came, I had the chance to communicate with more of them and get feedback directly. A couple told me they would not be interested in continuing using the app, but more expressed their excitement for this new community. I became more motivated to improve and market the product whenever I heard good feedback. It’s important to stay positive in a startup environment.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Because Liklist is a community, the most important thing is to fill the app with enough content and keep up the engagement. We came up with a lot of ideas to encourage the users not only to publish posts but also to interact with one another.
I also found it vital to talk directly with the early adopters. I would personally message them and ask about their opinions and suggestions on certain features. We don’t always fix the features exactly as they suggest, but we do gain a lot of insights from the perspective of the users.
Recently, we started to build an image on other social media outlets. We focused mostly on Instagram since the users there closely resemble the population we want to target. Although marketing on social media might not convert our followers to users straight away, it’s a great way to raise awareness of our brand online. By communicating with our followers on other platforms, I gained perspective on how Liklist is unique and learned more about the targeting market for us.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Currently, we are gaining users every day. It’s still pretty early, but we have a great foundation. At the moment, we’re still focusing on creating content with some early marketing attempts. The biggest problem we face is how to distribute and market our content to attract new users. We are trying out different methods constantly.
In the future, I’m positive that audio apps like Liklist would become more and more popular. The early success of Clubhouse indicated that people are seeing the value in authentic social networks. I’m also very excited that we plan to release a new feature called Topics that would hopefully encourage people to write about their experiences based on the topics or questions on Liklist. With Topics, it would be easier for people with the same interests to communicate with each other.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Working with the right people is extremely important. When I first finished prototyping and hired a developer, I thought I was working with the right person. After working a while with him, I began to notice that he lacked experience and qualifications for the work and was very hard to communicate with. In the end, I had to end the contract with him and started from scratch mostly. If I had worked with a reliable developer from the start, I would have saved much time and money.
However, hiring the right people is often a combination of experience and luck. I consider myself extremely lucky to find the first designer. Although he did not finish the whole project because of time conflicts, he laid out critical foundational work that decided the overall style of the app. His work directed our later designs and influenced them to this day. I would say to try your best when evaluating a person’s qualifications when hiring, but don’t be dismayed when things don’t work out.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Here are some of the tools I use often:
- Gmail and Google drive for email and document storage
- Github for code storing
- AWS for hosting server
- Adobe XD for all of the prototyping and a large amount of designing
- DocuSign for signing contracts and agreements with contractors
- Dribbble when I look for new designers
- Canva for poster designing
- MockuPhone for iPhone mockups
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The book that really influenced me is Positioning. I learned a lot about branding and marketing from it. Another book that provides a lot of practical advice is Disciplined Entrepreneurship. This book divided building a startup into 24 steps and listed specific details and examples on how to carry out each step.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My biggest advice would be to remain positive and act upon your idea. Spend a little bit of time on thinking, but always focus on the execution. Meanwhile, do pause when there are blockages and identify the cause first. Don’t be frustrated when you don’t see any obvious growth at first. It takes a lot of perseverance to start a company.
Also, don’t miss out on opportunities to learn new things. This includes courses, conferences, or just chances to talk to people with experiences.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m currently looking for a marketing manager who has experience promoting mobile apps and shares the same visions as me.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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