Snip.ly founder Mike Cheng on Growth, Life and Success

“Curiosity is the key component for personal growth. I always try to learn a little bit of everything”

- Mike Cheng, Founder Snip.ly

Mike Cheng is the founder of Snip.ly, a social media conversion company and Lumen5, a video content marketing company.

About Mike

I was born in Hong Kong, raised in Vancouver, but my professional journey began in Toronto. During my final years at Simon Fraser University, I was accepted into a program called The Next 36. The program selects 36 ambitious students from across Canada to form 12 teams of 3 and each team is coached by mentors to build a startup over the course of 9 months. 

Every participant from across the country had to gather in Toronto and live with their cofounders in a dormitory while building a new company together. It was through this experience that I met my current cofounders, Christopher Bowal and Nigel Gutzmann.

How Snip.ly Grew?

We launched Sniply in early 2014 and operated for several years with great success. However, the technology industry is a fast-moving space and we were quickly faced with somewhat of an existential crisis. Sniply helps businesses manage hyperlinks for marketing purposes, but we observed an internet that was increasingly moving away from text and rapidly towards rich media content such as images and videos. 

 

Hyperlinks thrive on the open web, but the open web was losing market share to a new private web, namely Facebook. With businesses changing their marketing strategy from link sharing to content production, we too had an important decision to make.


Even though the platform was still growing and all the signals show that we should move full speed ahead, we could not ignore the threat of becoming obsolete in an evolving landscape. As a result of a very difficult decision, we decided to go all-in on developing a new product that will allow us to capture the rich media trend. The result was Lumen5, a video creation platform which we launched in 2017, and the metrics are already showing faster growth rates compared to when Sniply was first released several years earlier.

Successes/failures in life

One of the greatest successes in my life is undoubtedly the progress we have made with Sniply. It was my first real attempt at building a technology company and the result was far beyond anything I had imagined. Sniply powers over 41 million hyperlinks and has reached over 256 million people from across the globe. One of our proudest achievements is to have come this far by bootstrapping since day 1, staying lean, and growing without any funding.

One of my greatest failures has been to continue running my previous startup, Needle, for longer than I should have. Needle was a hiring platform for creative professionals. Our prospects were saying great things about our product, and our investors were applauding our progress. Yet my instincts told me that the opportunity was just not there. We continued developing the platform, wasting valuable time and resources, which we eventually terminated. Contrary to popular belief, there is no shortage of positive feedback. Praises come easy and criticisms are hard to find. It was through this experience that I learned the importance of listening to your gut as an entrepreneur.

way i work

I always start my day with our users and customers. I go through a lot of user communications such as support tickets and contact form submissions. We are a team of engineers building a product for marketers.

This is why it is absolutely essential for me to remain in constant contact with our users, to ensure that I can always have a thorough understanding of what the market needs at any given time.

These conversations with our users often trigger new ideas which result in innovations that propel our company forward. Customer support is a two-way street. Helping our users resolve their problems is just the tip of the iceberg.

Understanding why they encountered the problem, why they care at all about the problem and exploring the countless ways we can solve each problem is the true substance of customer communication.

Following customer support, I often dive into product management work to maintain a healthy alignment between what our users want and what our team is working on.

I review our product roadmap daily and check up on progress on the various components we are working on to ensure that everything comes together on schedule. Since my background is in design, I also regularly go through our product and perform some quality assurance work while keeping an eye out for potential areas to improve the user experience.

Tools I use to work

I strongly believe that a healthy mind and body will net the best long-term results.

I use an app called Gratitude which is what they call a “gratitude journal” and I have a habit of logging things that I feel thankful for.

This is an important practice for me because life can move so quickly and it is important for me to make sure I acknowledge things that I am grateful for.

I also have an app called “Daylio” which I use to track my mood throughout the day. This helps me gather some insights on when I am most and least productive, allowing me to plan my days accordingly.

I also use the “Sleep Cycle” app to measure the quality of my sleep, as I believe good rest is a key component to productivity. On occasion, I will also use “HabitBull” to build new habits from everything as generic as regular exercise to something as specific as drinking 8 cups of water each day.

How do I hire team?

We look for the authenticity of character and genuine curiosity. Many things do not withstand the test of time. Our product may change, the technology we use may change, the skillsets we need may change, and so the only constant thing that remains is a character.

Favorite Books

A friend recently recommended a book called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F” which I found quite enjoyable.

The book talks about how, in the grand scheme of things, most things simply do not matter.

In the business world, so many things can happen on any given day. As much as we are naturally inclined to focus on the little things, we should never lose sight of the truly important things like family and friends.

At the end of the day, we work in pursuit of happiness, fulfillment, and meaning. I always enjoy books that remind us of why we started our journeys in the first place.

Advice to Product Makers

Be comfortable with diving into the unknown, be confident that you will only get better at improvising.

I believe the most important insight is to realize that nobody truly knows what they are doing. People, regardless of how successful they are, are almost always living life one step at a time. There are too many infinite possibilities in everything we do, and there is no such thing as a perfect plan. Be comfortable with diving into the unknown, be confident that you will only get better at improvising. Curiosity and courage are the only two things you need to grow.

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