Finding logic in a crazy world
PressLogic boss Ryan Cheung (BBA(Acc&Fin) 2011) has the keys to the media kingdom, all because his team have mastered data and analytics.
Traditional media has suffered during the digital age, particularly by failing to understand new insights and methods of monetisation required to get both eyeballs on stories and money into pockets.
Ryan has his sights on the prize as CEO of PressLogic, a Hong Kong-based technology startup that is making waves for raising Series A+ funding of USD 10 million. Their secret sauce? Doing what many find impossible – getting hits in an age of information overload, and developing a team of more than 150 across six Asian locations.
A Leap from banking to startups
From an investment banking background, Ryan joined forces with Edward Chow (BBA(IS) 2012) as CTO, also from HKU Business School, in 2016. They started PressLogic to leverage the growth of social media, analytics and programmatic solutions. “I had already quit the banking industry and sold my first company. Investors asked me what I wanted to do next and that turned into PressLogic,” says Ryan.
PressLogic started life as an analytics engine, but media companies were not buying their ideas. “At the time many of the owners were too old-school; they kept on asking us: ‘data, why is it related to media?’ At the time we already knew about social media algorithms and we decided to set up our own platforms as a proof of concept,” says Ryan.
At the heart of their success is community, and building a group of passionate people driving content on Instagram and Facebook. This is combined with a mastery of data analytics and ROI performance driven by a proprietary “MediaLens” software that integrates machine learning. “Many people spend money on key opinion leaders (KOLs) but don’t have an overall strategy. We found a way to optimise content, to go viral with analytics and gain engagements,” Ryan says.
PressLogic has geared its strategy on female lifestyle content in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, India, Korea, and Malaysia. Their brands, including GirlStyle, a wildly popular media platform that sees a large number of visitors between 18 to 34 years old, feature news about makeup and beauty care, fashion trends, lifestyle and fitness. It is one of ten channels run by the team including MamiDaily and CatCity, targeting different aspects of lifestyle news, with 11 million followers worldwide.
Fools rush in: Think before starting-up
Does Ryan think everyone should be in a startup? “Having a corporate job offers stability but the startup world is extremely rewarding, with a sense of achievement in being the one to solve all the problems. Don’t do a startup just because you think it sounds cool, that is a totally wrong approach,” he says.
Prospective owners need to have a business model mindset with unit economy and calculation of market size. “It’s very easy to fail, sometimes people are passionate but the market size is not big enough. Hong Kong is very small, think expansion and be persistent. Don’t just jump – everyone needs to go the extra mile and not get paid that much,” Ryan says.
Keeping it in the HKU Business School family
HKU Business School has been a significant contributor to the success of PressLogic – most of the company’s senior management are Ryan’s old classmates. “This was crucial for me to find people I trust, who have talent and strong work ethic,” says Ryan.
It is why PressLogic has a robust HKU culture, with strong bonds from studying together. Back in university days, Ryan was on the Executive Committee as event organising chairman, proving to be adept at getting sponsors such as Prudential for events to teach students how to present themselves to employers. His studies also included an exchange with Peking University, vital to broadening his horizons.
All bow to the ‘her’ economy
For PressLogic, the next goal is to build apps to host communities on their own proprietary platforms. “We value the ‘her economy’ very much, and we want to build on these users in particular. When nobody is immune from Covid-19, you need to reward loyal users with great content,” says Ryan.
No company has been immune to Covid-19 so far, fortunately, PressLogic is cloud based and were able to switch quickly into a work from home model. Being in Hong Kong and Taiwan helped, as the two regions were not heavily impacted by Covid-19. Finally, advertising budgets were moved to digital platforms, meaning the company didn’t suffer too much.
Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges for PressLogic has been building its culture. “When you have ten people it’s easy to manage, but the bigger you get there are traditional problems, people become bureaucratic and unproductive, and keeping a startup mentality is tough,” says Ryan.
It is why the company runs a tight ship by rewarding performance and not retaining staff who can’t meet targets. “It’s a more honest and straight forward way to reward and retain people,” Ryan says. Being smart, hungry, and not resting on one’s laurels, is the right logic for success.