Kevin Wong – Slowly Startup Diaries, post 7

The Hard Truths About Business Development

by Kevin Wong Ho-yin, 25 Nov 2022

It's been a while since I've posted here, but I've been busy with moving home for a while; and now I'm finally settling down.

This time I would like to share some of my thoughts on how to develop Slowly, after receiving a lot of suggestions over the past few years.

I have found that many people are attracted to large scale, high speed expansion, and believe that finding investors is the key to success; otherwise they may miss out on opportunities. It's not hard to understand, but does it really work for every business and every situation?

A local example

For example, the café around the corner is run by a couple in their 30s or 40s. The coffee is very personal, and the manager occasionally sells beans that are hard to find on the market. However, the single sofa in the corner is really comfortable and you can sit there for hours. With the music playing in the background, you can tell that some thought has gone into the song list, and it occasionally brings back memories.

To be honest, the prices are not as cheap as Starbucks, and the cakes and biscuits are occasionally a little overcooked and sweet. I have an impression that the shop is never full, but there is a loyal clientele that likes to patronise it, and although it's not enough to be listed as a stock issuing public company, it should be making a decent income.

When I enter the shop and exchange a glance with the owner, I rarely talk to him because I am too busy, he usually just smiles while he continues to serve and then goes back to the coffee machine to continue brewing their cups of coffee.

I don't suppose anyone would suggest that the chef and owner should take inspiration from McDonald's business plans, would they? Or go to the sandwich shop next door and encourage them to learn how Subway has conquered the world. The owners probably didn't want to be Starbucks, McDonald's or Subway from their very beginning, or even dislike them a bit; probably because they didn't want to lose their personality, or they didn't have the ambition. I think it's the same with apps.

I remember when we first started Slowly

...we received a letter from a competitor's lawyer in our first year. The letter stated that we were banned from using the term 'Pen Pal' in all our content because it was their registered trademark. Since then, we have used the term “Pen friend” in all our public documents for a while, as we did not have the time or resources to seek help from a lawyer. It was not until I remembered this earlier that I went to their official website to take a look, but I found GoDaddy's “Domain for sale” page – so I guess the company has closed down.

I have also noticed that many Influencers in the same period have successfully expanded at a rapid pace after raising funds, and have spent a lot of resources on promotion, such as Instagram, TikTok and so on. Recently, we found out that some of them have reluctantly announced the end of their projects, and if the time is short, it will not last for two to three years. It is sad to see other people's hard work come to an end.

In fact, the industry is already very competitive

...and trends are always changing. Especially when there is an expansion, there are naturally more expenses, and at least the staff have to make ends meet, right? The situation often becomes a bit uncontrollable.

Finally, I want to say that “making pen pals” is an outdated thing; otherwise, there would be no need for Slowly, because you could just pick up a pen and paper and send a letter. It's a little too self-indulgent to call it “Blue Ocean”, when it's such a niche concept that it's hard to even estimate the size of the market. Besides, I think it will be very difficult to find investors who share the same vision for this app.

I'm grateful that Slowly has been solid so far

...with good annual growth in all areas, so let's keep moving forward at a pace that works for us.

Rapid expansion can be a recipe for success, but it can also be a shortcut to collapse. It's a good thing we finally found a group of customers who don't want to drink coffee in a chain, even if they just order a coffee and sit down for a few hours to write a few thousand words to a pen pal far away.

And where do you like to go for coffee?

See you next time.

Cover photo source: Unsplash

🔔 The original text was published in It also appeared in the original Mandarin language on here

Translation Notes and rationale:

This translation was prepared by Yann2, a user, fan and supporter of the SLOWLY project. And it is in no way authorized or condoned by the original author. Any translation error contained herein are my own, and subject to revisions – please send comments if necessary, thank you.

This translator's view is that the inner workings of Kevin's mind are of interest to the passionate fans of the app he has created from scratch. Hence, we bring here an English language version which can be more widely read. Thank you, Kevin!

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