E-commerce businesses have been booming in the last decade. Brands like Amazon and eBay have transformed the way consumers make purchases and are leading a whole new industry.

Other than these e-commerce giants, many small and medium e-commerce brands are emerging, with some managed as a side job. These businesses lack the time and resources to implement advanced technological marketing strategies, but Taiwan startup Akohub is aiming to help.

“Our goal is to help small and medium e-commerce owners leverage advanced technologies with limited resources,” says Tinki Cheng (鄭天琪), co-founder and CMO of Akohub.

Akohub is one of the 12 Taiwan startups showcasing in TechCrunch Disrupt NY this year, and The News Lens spoke with Cheng and Ray Kung (龔建瑞), co-founder and CEO, to learn more about Akohub.

The News Lens: What is Akohub and what is the inspiration behind it?

Ray Kung: Akohub is building an intelligent marketing assistant for e-commerce entrepreneurs. We help them boost convergence rates and gain sales with chatbots and retargeting solutions.

I was working with developing data-driven marketing software [before starting Akohub], especially machine learning software. We met at a pitch event in San Francisco three years ago, and Tinki was running her own e-commerce business back then. She saw some pain points in operating Umade, and we realized a lot of small and medium e-commerce teams were seeing the same problems with the lack of time and resources. It is hard for these businesses to leverage advanced technologies, and we saw a business opportunity in this.

Tinki Cheng: We are looking to offer small and medium e-commerce businesses the marketing tools without having to hire engineers.

TNL: How does Akohub work?

Kung: With Akohub, small and medium e-commerce businesses don’t have to hire a lot of engineers and use a lot of resources to build these marketing systems. We have developed these systems into sets that business owners can operate themselves when they have a small team without an IT person. It only takes a few clicks and under three minutes.

When users browse an e-commerce site, many of these sites don’t know these users exist unless they have registered on the site. This makes it hard for the sites to reach these users again. But if these websites have a retargeting system, when these users go back to using their social media accounts, they will see advertisements from the e-commerce brands, which means the sites can continue to reach out to the users.

In addition, chatbots have been developing rapidly in the last few years. Many of our clients don’t have the time and resources to manage customer service, so we’re also looking to help them there. Our chatbot solves over 70 percent of the issues users bring up, and it also recommends products to the user asking questions so that they might become customers.


Photo Credit: Taiwan Startup Stadium

Ray Kung (龔建瑞), co-founder and CEO of Akohub.

TNL: How many users do you currently have and what kind of products do most of them sell?

Kung: Our clients offer a wide range of products, from clothes and jewelry to baby products and e-cigarettes. Since we launched last December, we have gained around 200 users with 80 percent of them based in the U.S. and Canada.

TNL: What are the challenges you have seen so far?

Chen: A lack of team members. It’s hard to find the right people to work with.

Kung: We are currently looking for talents with engineering backgrounds to do product development because there is a series of products we are planning to build.

TNL: How are you funding Akohub?

Kung: Bootstrap funding, and we are currently looking for angel investors.

TNL: Who are your competitors or potential competitors?

Kung: We have seen some similar services in North America, but we are always making sure our product value is higher than our competitors. We communicate with our users a lot and have a pretty good retention rate. We also compare our products with those of our competitors and optimize our product process.

Chen: Our target clients are those who don’t have a coding background, but we have seen some competitors that have created products that are for IT managers. So that’s also how we are different. We make it easy for owners, marketing managers, customer services or any decision maker to use our service.

TNL: What future plans do you have?

Kung: We are working toward creating an artificial intelligent marketing assistant that can provide marketing-related capabilities to optimize these e-commerce businesses.

TNL: What are your expectations of TechCrunch Disrupt NY?

Kung: We hope to find some business partners and more potential clients. The e-commerce industry is so big, and we are looking for partners that are providing solutions different from ours to compliment our service. We can bundle our services to provide our users more solutions.

TNL: What are the advantages and disadvantages you see in the Taiwan startup industry? How do you think the local government can help?

Kung: Our generation needs to work harder because we don’t have the success stories like the U.S. or China. These two countries have a lot of unicorns that build confidence in the investing market, but we don’t have that positive cycle yet in Taiwan and I’m hoping to see that happen.

Chen: Taiwan startups need to understand you can’t limit yourselves to Taiwan. You need to think global. American startups can focus on the U.S. because the local market is probably big enough, and it’s the same in China. But this doesn’t work in Taiwan. If the government would be willing to support organizations like Taiwan Startup Stadium more, it would really help.

The News Lens was sponsored by Taiwan Startup Stadium to attend TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017.

Editor: Edward White