E27 - Oct 8 - Just out of a very long relationship, Joseph Phua wanted to create an online platform to meet new people. It was back in 2013. Paktor, the app he launched in 2013, is now the largest dating app in Southeast Asia. Paktor has raised ~$52M and acquired five companies, before being merged with Taiwan's M17 Media to form M17 Entertainment. In May this year, Kollective Ventures acquired Paktor Group from M17 Entertainment. Phua recently stepped down as the CEO of M17 Group to assume the role of Chairman. "We faced many challenges with regards to fundraising, finding a sustainable business model, expanding globally, overcoming cultural differences and learning about the different markets", he says. "We expanded into eleven markets but it was expensive. We realized it was a mistake. There were several situations wherein we ran out of money but we never thought of shutting down. A company itself is a shell; what gives life to it are the ideas and the beliefs behind it. You can always pivot. Over our seven years of existence, we have pivoted many times. We first laid-off employees in 2013 and then again in six months after we expanded into 11 markets. We had to let go of 70-80 people. Then we had to move from being a free service to a paid one. Three key things that I learned trying to get out of the difficult situation:
- It is always going to be the darkest just before light.
- Running a business is all about its people. You must know how to lead like a person.
- Be grateful for everything you have. If you keep comparing and keep looking at what you don't have, then you will kill yourself.