Entrepreneur Interview – Hoc Phan

I interviewed a serial entrepreneur named Hoc Phan. Hoc started multiple startups including Tivify an app that allows you to live tweet a TV show along with its cast.

I interviewed him recently about his latest venture. This company is still in the product development phase and hence it currently does not have a website. However he was willing to share his thoughts about the company, market space, target customers and channels to reach customers.

This is a mobile app/ website which acts as a Q&A place for customers to ask questions around home improvement and experts to give answers. This app is for home improvement; what stackoverflow is for writing computer programs. He says this model is transferrable once created, because it can be used in a variety of industries.

In today’s world, users typically go to YouTube or randomly search on Google for answers to many DIY questions. But there is a gap in this model: Even if you find answers, there are not very many relevant answers to customers’ individual situation. This app is aimed at solving that problem. Lets say for example, you want to fix a faucet; you simply take pictures of the faucet write a short description of the problem and ask for suggestions. After this, it becomes an interactive forum where experts are answering your questions.

The market that Hoc is going after is the Do it yourself (DIY) market, which is a $700B market globally. His idea will essentially disrupt an existing market. His product is intended to be a pain killer in many ways. Stores like Loews and Home Depot typically provide the DIY tools and not offer consultation on how you can solve the problem. In fact; if you want to buy these tools from Loews, you need to do some research before-hand to understand if you can solve the problem without calling a plumber, what tools to buy from Loews and finally how to fix the faucet. The App that Hoc is developing will fix this gap.

Talking about Customers, he said there are two groups of customers – The Users who ask questions and the Experts who answer them. The experts are incentivized by assigning activity points to them, adding tabs like “Was this review helpful” and also offering reward points later on. He says he is going to add more incentives in this space in the future to grow this community. The User community and the Experts community feed into each other and become a virtuous circle.

In terms of the channels to reach customers, Hoc is planning a two-pronged approach: one is a free approach, another is a paid approach.

In the free approach, he is planning on promoting this App in Social media communities like Facebook and Twitter. He is planning on soliciting feedback through these channels to constantly improve his product. Also, he plans on using these channels to monitor user comments and resolve problems that his customers are facing.

In terms of capturing the first set of customers, he plans on starting in these communities. Also he plans on reaching out to friends and family to try the app and promote the app in many communities on Social media.

In the paid approach, there are different methods to use: Paid SEO search, where you pay for certain keywords and appear on top of the search results; also you can advertise on relevant web pages for people to click on it and visit his web site. His thinks that it is too soon for him to be thinking about marketing his product mainly because marketing for start-ups could turn out to be very expensive. 

In conclusion, I think this app would definitely address problems not only in the home improvement market, but will disrupt all industries including medical & education sectors. Please feel free to check out Hoc’s previous companies here.


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