Charlene Koh, is the Co-Founder and CMO of Paktor (which means dating in hokkien dialect), a locally born dating app that has taken the region by storm with over 7 million users in South East Asia and Taiwan.
It’s an exciting time for Paktor as they have received a $10M Series B funding mid last year and looking to grow even more. The LadyBoss team managed to get a peek into Charlene’s entrepreneurial journey amid her busy schedule.
Why did you take the plunge from being a banker to being involved in a startup?
To begin with, I was involved in the nightlife industry before starting Paktor with Joseph. Prior to the nightlife industry, I was working in the commodities sector in the banking sector residing in Sydney. Joseph decided to start Paktor and was looking for a partner and he knew I was in between jobs then and asked me to join him.
I was very hesitant at first as I didn’t know what this dating industry was all about and what I was getting myself into. At that point in time, Singapore did not have any local dating apps and it did present an exciting opportunity to introduce something new into the market. I also was curious, (and quite adventurous I do have to add!) I only live once any way, so why not try. If it didn’t work out, I would have at least know I tried something different and gained an incredible adventure.
What are some of the main challenges in this business?
There are so many challenges in a business. One of them that I face would be hiring the right people for Paktor let alone GaiGai. It is always important to find the right fit for your team and one who also understands the start up culture.
I only live once any way, so why not try. If it didn’t work out, I would have at least know I tried something different and gained an incredible adventure.
How many people do you lead in your team? How do you remain on top of things with your staff moving at a high pace?
I don’t necessary lead my team alone. We do it together with the senior management as well. In total the staff count in the whole of Paktor is about 60pax, and yes we are always on different communication platforms to remain on top of things. There are also weekly catch up calls we have with each team as well.
What would you say is the most successful marketing campaign you have ever planned?
Success is measured in different ways and we have quite a few marketing campaigns that have become successful. One of them is the Singles Day campaign that was reported in marketing publications as well.
Can you walk us through the process of setting up a marketing budget and planning how to allocate the budget?
Setting up the marketing budget is quite a complicated task but it all boils down to what your product needs at the current moment. We take an estimation of the current market prices of activities that we would like to do for the quarter and plan out the budget.
How do you measure ROI in marketing?
We measure it based on new users, user activity and also revenue.
What’s the idea when you started GaiGai (which literally means go for a walk or go shopping)? Is it a way to monetize Paktor?
GaiGai was founded to make effective dating affordable to everyone. It appeals to singles who wanted a more comprehensive and detailed way of finding a match, or wanted something more specific.
GaiGai organises fun events in casual settings, as well as date coaching for singles who need an added boost, so it complements, but is quite different from, Paktor.
What’s the pickup rate of GaiGai at this moment?
I can’t share numbers with you, but within a year, our staff strength has increased from 1 person to 10 persons in the GaiGai team.
What other plans of monetization do you have in mind?
We’re always thinking of new monetization ways for Paktor. You will have to wait and find out!
What are your plans for Paktor in the next 5 years? What’s your ultimate vision for Paktor?
I would like Paktor to be Asia’s go to dating app that everyone uses. And hopefully, for it to be an internationally renowned dating app.
What do you think about the call for a sustainable business versus raising to keep growing?
There isn’t anything wrong with having a sustainable business nor is there anything wrong with raising to keep growing. However both sides have pros and cons. A sustainable business will hit its ceiling or will be limited in what it can achieve or earn. However, with raising, it not only helps you effectively grow the business but also introduce investors who can help you achieve more with their expertise that they bring to the table. There also needs to be an exit game strategy to your fund raising, how many times you fund raise is a good indication as well of how well our business is doing.
Life is an adventure. Give yourself a timeframe, once that time frame is up and you haven’t achieved your desired goals, then it’s time to move on.
What are some interesting trends you have noticed with regards to the dating scene in Singapore?
Singaporean are more open to using dating applications and matchmaking agencies than most people think. A lot of singles also tend to prioritise their careers above dating.
What advice do you have women who are aspiring startup entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid to start something new. Life is an adventure. But give yourself a timeframe, once that time frame is up and you haven’t achieved your desired goals, then it’s time to move on.
Photography by Bryan Hooi, Makeup by Makeup Refinery