StartupGrind: TheSmartLocal – Bryan Choo Recap

Event: StartupGrind: TheSmartLocal – Bryan Choo
Date: October 26, 2017

At the October Startup Grind event, Bryan Choo, founder of TheSmartLocal (TSL), shared his story of how TSL transformed from being a one-man company to becoming one of Singapore’s largest and fastest growing independent publishers.

With a focus on travel and lifestyle content for Singaporeans, TSL’s goal is to provide what Bryan calls “trustworthy hyper-local information” on what to do both in and out of Singapore. He really wants visitors and residents to experience and enjoy Singapore through the lens of a local.

After Bryan created TheSmartLocal, within the first year, he was drawing in an average of 100,000 visits per month. It wasn’t until Bryan posted the blog article “52 Things To Do In SG Before You Die” that TSL went viral. This article drew in so much traffic that the server repeatedly shut down and had to be rebooted. As a result of TSL “going viral” TSL’s traffic increased to 100,000 visits per day — impressive 3,000% increase.

By 2017, the TSL team scaled to 80 members and counting. Bryan generously shared his secret sauce for ideation – TSL’s “Think Tank.” The Think Tank operates with TSL’s specific playbook of picking, storing, and generating ideas for all of TSL’s projects. We especially enjoyed learning about ThinkTank’s media monitoring, which helps them to constantly inspire relevant and creative content internationally.

Everyone was intrigued by Bryan’s way of attracting and retaining talent. When asked about attracting talent to TSL, Bryan explained that “you attract what you are.”

Bryan carefully handpicks TSL’s Think Tank team by putting candidates through a mandatory test. The questions are hard, funny, amusing, mind-boggling – and most importantly, stretches the candidates’ imagination. They only interview candidates with a score above 16. Only two candidates have scored 20/20 on the test. Both of whom were hired and continue to work at TSL to this day!

Another thing that Bryan does exceptionally well is making the work at TSL especially attractive to potential employees. One example is the Xperia XZ Premium phone project that had TSL employees capture their travels from Singapore to London by land. The entire journey was recorded in video format and filmed with the Xperia phone only. From the train ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway to eating Cuberdon in Brussels to playing games in Prague, we saw the slow-mo function and incredibly high-quality images of the Xperia phone in action.

So, it seems that making the barrier to entry high to join and making projects interesting is the key to hire and retain talent in creative industries.

What attracts employees to your business? Let us know in the comments below!

Inspired by Bryan’s story? Interested in brainstorming creative ideas? First stop, GorillaSpace for creative office spaces in Singapore.

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