Startup Advice

Edtech entrepreneur Jon Tse reveals how Zookal scored 100,000 users in three months

Dinushi Dias /

Edtech entrepreneur Jon Tse says there are five critical steps that his startup took to acquire 100,000 users in three months.

Tse is the co-founder of Zookal, an online marketplace for students to buy or rent university textbooks. The platform, led by chief executive and co-founder Ahmed Haider, is used by students across Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Writing for Tech in Asia, Tse revealed Zookal’s journey began with coffee catch-ups during preliminary market research. Prior to building a solution, Tse says he reached out to people in the target market and met with them in person to conduct qualitative interviews.

This was before engaging in deep online research.

Tse believes founders can benefit greatly by meeting people from the target market in person for initial research.

“The reason I like to have coffee catch-ups (make sure you pay for the coffee too!) before doing my full internet research is I get to start with a clean slate,” he says.

Instead of trawling through “large chunks of data” and getting lost in online statistics at the beginning, Tse says, coffee catch-ups can provide an “excellent starting point” to understand the market, potential demand and where to focus research.

“It also gave me confidence that there was a big opportunity for us, he says.

Tse says listening to understand — instead of listening to respond — and note-taking are critical if founders want to learn anything from these catch-ups.

“I can actually use my two ears to listen and my mouth only to ask more questions,” he says.

In addition to this, Tse says tackling an existing problem, prioritising valuable content in an app over beautiful design early on, promoting a personal brand and tapping into what’s working, can also play an influential role in an app’s success.

“I’ve learned that someone needs to promote your product, and if you don’t, who will?” he says.

“We found that this worked tremendously and through networking, we got athletes, actors, models, and online stars to endorse us … There’s a lot of things that we tried and failed at, but perhaps that is the cue for another article. Get out there, take calculated risks, and work hard.”

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Dinushi Dias

Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.

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