Adapt or Die! An Internal Letter From the Founder of Jiepang, the Leading Check-in Business in China

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[Editor: I got an email this morning from a friend who is working for Jiepang, the leading check-in service in China. Surprisingly, it came with an internal email sent from its founder David (who's a long-time friend of mine too). Is Check-in business dead? I guess many of you are wondering if service like Foursquare can keep growing as it was expected. I believe in the idea of check-in, but I also think the key to success in the type of business is to adapt to the need of the market as well as the users. Adapt or Die, as David said in this email. I think this rule actually applies to every business, especially for startups in the very crowded mobile internet. So, I decide to publish this letter here (without the consent from David and hope he would not mind), and trust me, it worths your reading and thinking.]

 

Dear Jiepang team,

In the past month, I am blessed to have had a few great meetings reviewing the company with our board, as well as a few founders and CEOs from bigger, respected Chinese tech companies that are true role models for me and all of us at Jiepang to learn from.
I want to share with you our focuses and perspectives for the next 12 months into 2013-

#1 Expand Our Vision for Jiepang as a Service

As a few startups and big companies pivot away from LBS social services, we could focus on their failures and be obsessed with why they failed. But at Jiepang, that’s not our focus. At Jiepang, we continue to 100% focus on inventing Jiepang’s future, failing and learning our way to success.
As we work towards this goal, here are a few of the most important perspectives I want our team to have:

#1 Jiepang users are uniquely awesome people, doing something truly amazing together

Jiepang users are people who love sharing & exploring the world together. Amazing people with amazing taste, influence, and a passion for life. As a community — with every single check-in, photo, shout, tip — Jiepang users building a uniquely valuable layer of user generated content across the biggest cities in China, as well as uniquely valuable histories of places and lifestyle preferences. In 2013, we will radically start to leverage this data to personalize and improve our service in a way that only Jiepang can! What do we want to see? People that “live differently” because of what they discover and share on Jiepang.

#2 Remember what we believe at- “Live different”

I think Jiepang’s team and community culture is truly special because of how we view life as a gift. At Jiepang, we believe everyday is special, and should be lived that way. And we serve the people who believe with us, they “live different,” and their lives bring special purpose, meaning, and joy to the lives of people and places nearby them. Our dream is scaling or spreading this lifestyle to the world.

#3 Think bigger, and be brutally honest with ourselves

We are serving the world’s largest population smartphone users, and last time Lee Kaifu blogged (probably 0.5 seconds ago) I heard it’s still growing really fast! This means we have many, more users to connect with and serve in the next year. This also means there is newer, tougher competition. But we love strong competition- it really does make us better, and it forces us be brutally honest with ourselves to improve our service for our users more. Ultimately, I know that competition will help us make Jiepang users happier :-)

#2 Grow Higher Revenues through Higher Relevance

At Jiepang, we believe that great advertising should be great information. And great information is entertaining, useful, and worth sharing with friends.

In 2012, we made progress on our commitment to “advertising-as-information”, working with partners to connect their brands and venues with Jiepang users through local, social, mobile advertising formats and campaigns that were fun, useful, and worth sharing with friends.
Our commitment has paid off. Since we first started generating revenue less than 2 years ago, our sales has grown steadily 20% quarter-over-quarter (we are sincerely thankful to have GREAT users, GREAT teammates, GREAT advertising partners).

Next year, we’re aiming to break-even. We aim to do that by making Jiepang’s advertising even more relevant (through data and personalization) and more social (through better technology, mechanics, and partnerships).

#3 Finally, I want to share a quote: “Adapt or Die” (Brad Pitt in the movie “Moneyball”)

Not many startups and teams get to where we are, but we all did it together. I am thankful for everyone here as our friends and partners on this journey :-) In the past 2+ years of serving Jiepang users with you, I’ve seen our very young team grow to be more self aware, more humble, and much, much more hungry. This is a killer combination.

However, to be more killer, and killer enough for the next phase of developing Jiepang, the time is right now for more senior, experienced leaders to join and mature our team. What does that mean?

Change is going to happen on this team. Change that I believe is better for all of us. A few new friends and partners will join us, and a few old friends and partners will move on. In the end, I think it will be great for all of us who have done much to contribute and make Jiepang what it is today. For the few, old friends who are going, they will be missed but I know they will find themselves to be stronger for new challenges and opportunities for their work and personal lives. All of us personally wish them the best – they will always be family to me (once a crab, always a crab!). And with a few, new friends coming in, I know the entire Jiepang team will be stronger, more experienced, and better adapted to help Jiepang fight new challenges, and win new opportunities.

Dear team, partners, friends, be ready to embrace the changes, and remember this moment where you stopped to read this and thought about where we’re all going and what we’re striving for together. Look forward to looking back with all of our teammates together after 6-12 months when will have all learned and grown together even more, and worked our hearts out to getting Jiepang to the next level. This is an incredible journey we are on together, and I believe it is about to get even more incredible in the next year.

Proud to serve Jiepang users with you, looking forward to 2013 together.

-Dave

[image credited to theshowponies]