Timothy Tiah holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from University College, London. After graduation, in 2007, Timothy Tiah, alongside his business partner and CEO Ming Shen Cheo, established Netccentric together with the launch of a blog advertising company, Nuffnang.
Throughout the years, Timothy has created and executed the monetisation strategies of the core business and has been responsible for driving the international expansion sector by launching new regional offices through joint venture partnerships. In addition, he was nominated by Businessweek as one of the 25 best young Asian entrepreneurs in 2007, whereby he was the only Malaysian representative and the youngest amongst the list of inspired nominees at age 23. Timothy also went on to win several other prestigious awards one of them being the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Award in 2009. In 2014, he was the top nominee for the Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year award for Malaysia. Furthermore, adding on to his list of accomplishments, in 2015, he was shortlisted as 20 top nominees for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Malaysia and had won the Emerging Entrepreneur awards category.
During his free time, Timothy is a profilic blogger who writes at http://timothytiah.com and people interested in following him are also able do so on Dayre, https://dayre.me/timothytiah, a mobile blogging application as well as on Twitter @timothytiah.
Tell us about your business.
Netccentric Ltd is an integrated social media solutions provider for the Asia-Pacific region. Essentially it is a digital media business which operates seven businesses in the digital advertising sector across multiple countries including Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, China and the U.K. We help advertisers connect with people on social media. Nuffnang is our blog advertising network and our first venture under Netccentric.
How did you come up with the idea of Nuffnang?
It all started back in 2005 when I was studying in London. I was the kind of Malaysian who was always homesick and so I read a lot of blogs back in Malaysia. I used to think blogs were a really niche thing but as I read more and more blogs and dug deeper, I realized that the traffic they collectively commanded was huge.
I wondered why advertisers never engaged bloggers and after some research, I have found that what the blogging community needed was one company to collectively represent them to advertisers. In other words, to make it technologically and logistically possible for an advertiser to reach 10,000 blogs in one campaign instead of just 10. Hence the idea for Nuffnang was born.
Could you walk us through the process of starting up Nuffnang?
I promised myself that by the time I got back to KL after graduation, if nobody had started something like Nuffnang I would do it. As I came back, there was no start-up in relation with the idea of Nuffnang. Therefore, I turned down some job opportunities at a couple of investment banks and took the leap.
My partner, Ming Shen Cheo and I borrowed RM 75k from our fathers respectively and together we started Netccentric and Nuffnang with RM150K.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup and if so, how did you guys overcome it?
Yes plenty. It was a fairly steep learning curve. This was coming from a student and then running a start-up almost immediately. We didn’t know anything or anybody in the industry we existed in.
To get our first clients we could not network our way in. We just really went to knock on doors and try to convince people to give us a chance.
How have you been developing Netccentric Ltd?
Last year in June 2015, Netccentric was successfully listed on the ASX raising $12.5 million in a heavily oversubscribed capital raise.
Netccentric today has over 200 full-time staff and houses several online businesses which include Nom Nom Media, the exclusive digital reseller of Nuffnang; Churp Churp, a social media advertising network; Ripplewerkz, the design and web development arm and REelityTV, an online video production house.
What kind of feedback did you get for Nuffnang so far?
I think Nuffnang has come a long way in revolutionizing the blogging industry. Before we started, blog advertising was a really small chunk of the overall advertising pie in Malaysia and Singapore. I believe we helped significantly grow that to what it is today.
Do you face a lot of competition in this industry? What is your strategy against your competition?
Yes. We’re in a number of different businesses and different countries so we have competitors in each individual country. Our focus isn’t on our competitors but really on ourselves.
What is the future of this industry?
Our industry is a really fast moving one. Things change and progress. Social networks come and go; therefore it is really important to keep up to speed with what’s going on. One of our key focuses now is Dayre that has helped us evolve into a platform owner.
Were there anything that disappointed you initially?
In businesses, we’re always bound to have our surprises and disappointments. I’ve had my fair share of positive surprises and disappointments too.
What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?
Well I can speak with some level of experience from having own a company in the UK and Australia. In developing countries such as in Asia, costs tend to be lower, so it’s somewhat easier to turn a profit.
Developed countries have big mature markets but their costs are also correspondingly higher. So in these countries, we have to hit a higher minimum economy of scale if we want to make good profits.
What is your opinion on Asian entrepreneurship vs Western entrepreneurship?
I don’t think entrepreneurs can really be defined by the country you come from or anything like that really. The thing about being an entrepreneur is your ability to adapt. So entrepreneurs constantly evolve to the environment they’re in, regardless of where they’re from.
What is your definition of success?
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I didn’t really just decide to be an entrepreneur. I just wanted to start something for the blogging community and well along the way progress to become an entrepreneur.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
Luck. In my opinion, I believe that success is 70% luck and 30% hard work.
Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there from your personal experience?
I would like to quote my favourite phrase which is “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters”.