iAsk Senhe Li: Traffic and scale are not the only criteria for company assessment? | iAsk Top Leaders
"In today's society, the public evaluate companies based on traffic and scale. However, this is merely one of the indicators, not the sole one. We hope that ZAKER's services can change the world and make users more attractive."
Speaking of making users "more attractive", ZAKER Founder Senhe Li talked a lot with us. He said that ZAKER has made tremendous changes in recent years. They knew what to do and what not to. Even though they had to give up on a large amount of traffic, it is more crucial to dedicate time to more meaningful undertakings.
Senhe Li, a graduate of the Computer Science Department of South China University of Technology, is a typical tech geek. He was most proficient at coding and algorithm. At the end of 2010, Senhe Li, 28 years old, came up with the idea of starting a business after seeing the mobile Internet revolution triggered by Apple's mobile phones. His intention was simply to deliver valuable information to users in the upcoming era of information explosion. ZAKER was hence founded.
In August 2018, ZAKER completed the Series C+ financing. In August of this year, ZAKER obtained the "Internet News Information Service License" issued by the state. It is the second mobile information platform in China that has obtained the license since the implementation of the new regulations.
ZAKER has been constantly accumulating energy, yet Senhe Li claimed that after nine years of entrepreneurship, he still maintained the mentality of starting from scratch and that keeping awe and curiosity about the industry was his constant characteristic. In this issue of "iAsk Top Leaders", iAsk Founder Gloria Ai spoke with Senhe Li to see how a tech guy runs the media.
Traffic and scale are not the sole criteria for company assessment?
Gloria Ai: You coined the word ZAKER. How do you define it?
Senhe Li: At first, we thought of it as a lifestyle, or a representation of something optimistic and valuable that brings about positive energy. When ZAKER enters the market as an information aggregation platform, it is still slightly different. We hope that it is not just a tool platform. Instead, it can demonstrate certain values. Gradually, "ideological, cutting-edge, trendsetting, and globalized" will become our labels.
Gloria Ai: When we analyze a company from a financial perspective, what unique value can ZAKER provide?
Senhe Li: First of all, from the angle of product design, ZAKER is unique. Since the establishment, its visual experience and format has been distinct. Secondly, the differentiation of the whole product lies in empowerment. ZAKER presents more abundant content through the empowerment of technology.
Gloria Ai: You are exploring a model that you deem can contribute to the world, but if you judge by the rules of the business world, ZAKER can't compete with top platforms like Toutiao in terms of platform traffic or valuation scale. What do you think?
Senhe Li: Everyone has their own development path. Each person defines success in different ways. It could be to satisfy their own desires, or to exert some long-lasting influences. From the perspective of outcomes, nowadays people tend to assess corporate value based on traffic and scale. This is indeed one of the objective criteria for evaluation, but not the sole one. We hope that our services can change the world, make users more attractive, and spread more positive energy for society. In the past couple of years, ZAKER has made tremendous changes. We gave up on a large amount of traffic and knew what to do and what not to. Only in this way can we dedicate time to more meaningful undertakings.
Gloria Ai: I noticed that ZAKER has been exploring a new form of media, called Regional Media Convergence?
Senhe Li: The Regional Media Convergence strategy was put forward in 2015 as the first in the industry. In the past, the distribution of newspapers was subject to limited areas with boundaries. Therefore, we adopted this model to divide regions, hoping that the users of ZAKER can empower these institutional media so that we can jointly develop regional media.
In the process of new media transformation for regional institutional media, our platform provides the technology and share ZAKER's users on hand for them to manage. Not only can we help traditional media transform, but also effectively spread the specialized content by institutional media across the country. This approach also works better for users. In the era of information explosion, content generation costs too little that the market lacks credible information, yet ZAKER can deliver the content of various regional institutional media to users.
What kind of tricks should the media play to keep up with the times?
Gloria Ai: In the era of mobile Internet, the media has become the most illustrative reflection of changes. Big data, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things may cause media practitioners to be infinitely anxious. What new tricks should they play to keep up with the times?
Senhe Li: Yes, the biggest change at this stage is that the Internet of Things is initiating the transformation in media thoroughly. In-vehicle systems, smart stereo and smart home exemplify that everything can ben "media". Even a mirror may be a media terminal. Our point of view is that, firstly, content will stay constant eventually; it's the means of content delivery that is changing. Same content should be delivered in varied ways on different media. For example, for content delivery through 4K or 8K UHD, the content generation equipment, editing capacity and content presentation should be adjusted accordingly based on the scenario. Nonetheless, what remain unchanged are the value, viewpoints and depth of the content.
Secondly, regardless of the terminal or the technology, the extra empowerment of the content should not be done by media practitioners, but by win-win cooperation. Only in this way can the ecology sustain.
Gloria Ai: But no matter it is empowerment or cooperation, profitability is always a vital criterion for assessing the performance of a company. Is ZAKER profitable now?
Senhe Li: At present, we can be profitable. I think our current profitability looks good. We do have varied considerations at different stages. Our margin would also change as we adjust the development plan and tempo of ZAKER, but from the perspective of commercial nature, our profitability is solid.
Gloria Ai: Ten years ago, you were a young entrepreneur, the so-called post-80s pioneering entrepreneurs. Nowadays, there are post-00s entrepreneurs. Do you think China's entrepreneurial sector has changed a lot in the past ten years?
Senhe Li: Early-stage entrepreneurs were actually quite ignorant and disoriented. Industry practitioners were all exploring. As industries gradually became well established with more distinct division of labor, entrepreneurs nowadays are more targeted and visionary. From the standpoint of ZAKER, the past nine years passed by in the blink of an eye. We have come a long way with solid steps one at a time and strive to make our company more valuable in the market.
Gloria Ai: What are you most anxious about at present?
Senhe Li: In terms of anxiety, not a single entrepreneur is free of anxiety. The era is changing with each passing day. At present, I ask myself every day whether we provide the service to the utmost, whether we properly transform traditional media, and whether we bring it to the extreme. This is what I am most anxious about.
Gloria Ai: To envision ZAKER in ten years, what do you think it will be?
Senhe Li: We will remain true to our original aspiration. Even though scenarios may change in the future, our concept of content service and the expectations of users we serve will stay the same. We will pass on valuable content under diverse scenarios. ZAKER will keep going.
Gloria Ai: What about Senhe Li in ten years?
Senhe Li: Personally speaking, I believe I will maintain the mentality of starting from scratch. I won't stop moving forward. Keeping awe and curiosity about the industry is my strong characteristic. I will always position myself as an entrepreneur.
iAsk Media offers in-depth coverage, distribution, and brand-building services for founders in both China inbound and outbound markets. Over the past five years, iAsk Media has published over 1300 pieces of founder-focused original text and audio content, and produced over 120 premium video dialogues with leading entrepreneurs and investors.
iAsk Capital further supports founders by complementing media, brand-building, and marketing solutions with a wide range of investment and advisory services, from growth capital and direct equity investment to fundraising, asset management, and M&A support. To date, iAsk Capital has completed investments in some of China’s fastest growing ventures, including Bytedance, Himalaya, Movietime, and Horizon Robotics.
Gloria Ai is the founder of iAsk Media and the founding manager of iAsk Capital, and a former venture partner at the Softbank Asia Infrastructure Fund. She serves as the international brand ambassador to her hometown of Huangshan, and was Forbes 30 Under 30 in the Media, Marketing & Advertising category. She is a graduate of Harvard Kennedy School and Peking University. Prior to founding iAsk, she served as a financial news correspondent for China Central Television in New York.