Jamie Liu, Founder of Inncee
Data data, data.
In this fast-moving pace of technological advancement, the word is no stranger to the tech scene. Data veteran Jamie Liu and Founder of startup Inncee leverage on data to help e-commerce stores achieve optimal results strategically. Jovial and honest, the data analyst and mother of 2 shared her thoughts and visions with me at her DBS X Asia office.
Hello Jamie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, I’m Jamie, I am the founder of Inncee, actually, I’m 35 years old this year, I’m a mother of 2. My son is 5 years old and my daughter is 3. On top of that, I’m running a technical startup. In my old life, I started out as a web developer. After that, from web development, I did some freelance work, I taught at Republic Polytechnic for a while, and after that, I got into my real passion which is becoming a data analyst. Since then, for the past 9 years, I’ve been doing a lot of data analytics, specialising in analysing what business users required, and looking for interesting insights and information inside the big part of data.
Why did you start Inncee?
During my time in Microsoft, I kind of realised that a lot of the times when I produced reports for my business users, my end users, they always came back and went like “Hey Jamie, this report is fantastic! There’s so much information, but I just really need to know one thing. I just need to know whether based on whatever numbers that we have, can I do this, this, this, or that. I just want to know whether does the data support this particular decision that I’m going to make.” And I realised that most users really don’t like reading reports, there’s just too many numbers, takes too much time to really figure out what is the end decision that they needed to make. And our current business intelligence system, reporting systems, will only be good at generating raw reports. So I figured that since most of the time I look at the reports for them, and what I was telling them was very repetitive in nature, I realized that if we could create a more intelligent reporting analytic system, where you could input certain business rules, that uses inputs rules, then it would output outcome, just tell you outcomes, whether it’s a yes or no, you should do it or you shouldn’t do it. It even gave you suggestions based on the particular trends that you’re seeing. A system that could do that, would really be beneficial, it’s like a middle layer between a reporting system and the end users desired outcome. So that led me to want to build such a system. I started Inncee really to see if a system like that could be built, and I chose the e-commerce domain to build a more intelligent analytics system like this is because I used to do e-commerce in the past. Even I myself, a data veteran, gets very frustrated with some of the stuff that comes out of say, Google analytics, it’s just so much raw stuff that it’s not very usable, or it takes some time to process before it becomes usable.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced thus far?
Obviously, 1 is, everything is “Bao Ka Liao” (do everything yourself) So you pretty much have to do a lot of stuff on your own. You learn a lot of stuff along the way, for e.g. I may be really good technically, I could build my own platform, design my own data warehouse. But if you ask me do I know how to read or craft out legal agreements, do I know how to negotiate with external parties on how do we do partnerships, do I know how to do sales. I don’t know all these, so it’s stuff that you learn on your own because there is actually no other alternative. You have to do all these and spend the least amount of money possible. Everything is about bootstrapping. As much as people say startup has a lot of money coming in from investors and all that, but that’s later when you’ve got a good viable business going. When you get started in the beginning, you don’t think about investor money, you think about, “Ok, let’s cobbled together our first round of capital ourselves, and see how long will it last, stretch it as much as you can” Yeah, everything you do yourself, very little money to work with, then after that is really looking for dedicated good people to help you along the way. Because ultimately, as much as you try to do everything by yourself, you can only do so much. You’re going to need to hire people or get people on board to help you. Finding the right candidates to come onboard when your startup is still struggling, when all you have is your vision, the product is not there yet, so you got to convince them to come onboard, and give everything to it as much as you did. So, those are some of the really tough parts about doing a startup.
Jamie and her Inncee team. Photo credits: Jamie Liu
In Your Opinion: Is Big Data Disruptive Technology?
Actually, big data itself is not disruptive, it’s not a technology, it’s a field. It is what happens when for the past 10 to 15 years, people have started obsessively storing all of their operational information. Big data is just a field, but the technologies, the demand for analysing, to process all these big data stuff, and coming out with usable useful information, that is disruptive. That is different, it’s new. So if you ask any data based person, who has been working in this field for the last 10,15 or 20 years, you ask them if “Big Data Technology is Very Disruptive”, they will say “No, we’ve been building up towards it.” They have been analyzing, finding ways to efficiently analyze data for the past many many years, it’s just now we have gone to a point, whereby we were limited by the ability of our computer processes, now with cloud computing, CPU power being cheaper and cheaper because of it, it’s easy for us to tap into really powerful computers to crunch and churn numbers, and that’s where machine learning comes in. Machine learning lives on such big powerful computers. So it’s disruptive in the fact that we know how to train up more people, to learn how to work with data, to learn how to analyse data more efficiently, to learn how to develop statistical mathematical models to predict things for the future based on all the data we’ve accumulated.
Where will Inncee be in 5 years?
Obviously, I hope we are still alive la. (laughs) 5 years for us obviously we want to be really good at what we are doing, after all, here at Inncee, the product that we are offering right now is actually product analytics for e-commerce, or better known as merchandising analytics. Imagine us as being in the retail setting, we would be the store manager that can tell our boss exactly which products are selling very well, which products need to be moved to the front of the store because that would attract more sales, which product needs to be pulled off shelves because they are just taking up too much space and they are not selling, what new products to put up, because that’s what customers are interested in. So we are doing, and specialising in that kind of analytics, providing that kind of information. And it is done through a data base analysis engine, a role based engine that we are able to specifically program it to look out for certain information, certain key traits about products, and classify it to that kind of category and provide a suggestion on what to do with the products like these. In 5 years’ time, I hope I’m able to repurpose this engine for other things, like maybe we could apply it to restaurants, F&B, we could do other sectors instead of just e-commerce. But after all, we do hope to see our own e-commerce product mature into a point that we could be deployed as part of a standard offering for any e-commerce platform, or it could be deployed as part of a standard analytics offering for any e-commerce market place. Like maybe when you sell on Amazon, you’ll see the Inncee analytics reports, analytics engine part of Amazon’s seller interface. So, if we get there, and get such a high recognition level, I think that would be one of the biggest achievements for Inncee already, in this lifetime.
How do you define success and how do you measure it?
Revenue! (No lah, Laughs) If you ask any investor, they will say “Yeah, I want growth, I want traction, revenue and all that.” But how do I define success? I think even if let’s say I only have 5 clients right, but if you tell me all my 5 clients that ever since they used our system, they managed to double their sales revenue, every time they sell a product, it earns more than 30% more revenue. People are more likely to buy it. Every suggestion that we put out, they see positive results for it. I think if all my 5 clients that I sell my product to seize this kind of results, I think we’ve already done very well, it’s success to me. It at least tells me that we built something that is genuinely useful and genuinely working for the clients that we are helping. And they would be happy to promote us, and happy to keep using us. If we come up with another product, and we tell them that it’s going to work, they will believe us wholeheartedly 100% even if they’ve never seen it in action before. Even that, to me, at least, is success.
Lastly, any inspirational quote to live by?
I think when you ask anybody this question – what is inspirational to you when you ask them now is whatever quote they found that helped them and affected them the most at that point in time. For me, for the last couple of months, (and I think this is very common if you ask any startup founders as well) I had doubts, I worry about I don’t know whether am I doing well, doesn’t seem to be having any results, I don’t seem to be moving forward, or I’m not seeing the results I’m expected to see when we first started. So, and I started doubting myself. It started to affect my dedication trying to do sales or talking to clients. It was a bit demoralising. So then I read this article (it’s just nice, the timing was fantastic) I was reading this article, and it talked about some of the struggles that startup founders have. And there was this section that they specifically said, and was titled “Put Your Blindness On” So it was trying to say that, let’s say in a horse race, the horses have these blinders that they wear. Because horses can see everything around them, it’s like a 365º ability to see things. And if you let the horse see everything, they get very easily frightened, very easily scared, and they won’t run. They might become out of control and they are not going to run the race. So jockeys put blinders on so all they see it is what’s in front. So they don’t get distracted by anything besides them. The whole analogies purpose was to tell founders that sometimes you need to not get distracted by everything around you and keep focused on your end goal and your task, and just run towards it. Just run to that goal, you want to think about anything else, finish whatever you’re doing first or whatever task you set ahead for yourself. Then, you think about everything else. So at the end, they added one last quote,” Those born with eyes at the side, born to hide. Those born with eyes in front, born to hunt.” So that kind of helped me put my head in the right place and keep going.
Inncee moving forward:
Like I’ve mentioned before, I spoke a little bit about what Inncee works like and we are an e-commerce merchandise analytics platform. So it’s cloud-based, so that means if you’re running an e-commerce store or Shopify, or you’re running an e-commerce store that you built on a custom website, you could install us as a plugin into your store, and we would automatically begin tracking how your shoppers or visitors are engaging with the different products on your e-commerce store.
And using that tracking, the kind of reports we built up is we analyse each product, each category, and each brand you carry and tell you basically where is the money coming from. A product, how is it performing, how much revenue does it earn, which category does it perform the best in, what are the common products that are commonly purchased together with these different products, and tell you which of your categories that are most profitable, which ones are trending up, there’s a lot of interest in it. Or in each category which are the products contributing the most to hit sales. So, it gives you an understanding almost like a store manager to tell you exactly how each section of your store, each product in your store, and each product line in your store is performing. It helps you to make decisions, about what kind of products you should feature in marketing campaigns.
It helps you to make decisions about what are the best products to put in front of the store that are most likely to generate leads, sales and conversions for you. At the same time, our system also helps you to highlight and look out for products that should be promoted more often, because it’s just not getting enough views that’s very likely to drive you more sales, or which products are totally not selling at all and it’s just taking up valuable real estate on your site that you should replace with something else. So all these give you better management of your entire catalogue, and to use all of your products strategically to improve the revenue within your entire store. So if you’re an e-commerce retailer, and you’ve run out of ideas, tired of just constantly advertising your best selling products, or just constantly advertising only what’s new in store, why not consider giving a try for our platform and see what more intelligent information you can get, and more ideas on how you can use all your products more strategically.
For more information about Inncee, visit inncee.com