LA Business Podcast

39. Han Ng, Co-Founder of Novocall

Novocall Han Ng
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In this episode, we talk to Han Ng about filling a service gap with his start-up company Novocall.

Novocall help businesses recover potential lost sales by capturing, qualifying and connect web visitors via a truly digital call.

Find out more here: novocall.co

Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to the LA Business Podcast, a form for business owners and senior executives to share the experiences about the elements that drive their success. Your host is Robert Brill, CEO of brillmedia.co an Inc 500 company. Delivering the power of hyper-local advertising. Robert writes for Forbes, Inc., and ad trade publications.

Our goal is to bring you the stories about successes and failures of people who are making big things happen in marketing, entrepreneurship, and management.

Robert Brill: [00:00:36] Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of the LA business podcast today our guest is Han co-founder of Novocall.

Thanks for being with us today.

Han Ng: [00:00:46] Thanks for the invite. Pleasure to be here.

Robert Brill: [00:00:48] So we connected over LinkedIn a few weeks ago. We have a lot of people, a lot of senior level people that were connected that, are joined in our connections on LinkedIn. And I’m looking at your profile. you’ve spent some time working as a digital acquisition intern at Citi.

And are you the founder or cofounder of Novocall?

Han Ng: [00:01:11] I’m the co-founder of Novocall.

Robert Brill: [00:01:13] Got it. Okay. So tell us a little bit about what Novocall is and, your value proposition is fantastic on LinkedIn. Tell us a little bit about it. I’m really excited about your tool.

I think your tool is fantastic. It has a lot of great opportunity, especially for the work that we do, which is, lead generation using paid media on Facebook. So tell us a little bit about your tool.

Han Ng: [00:01:41] So, right. Actually began, when I was, sort of, talking to customers when I was having a digital agency as sort of a side hustle when I was in my college years.

So when I talk to those customers that I have, they sort of have effective to me a common problem. That they prefer to call over live chat or email, simply because call is the channel with the highest conversion rate. At that point, I didn’t think that it’s something that I what a venture on.

And then I met my wonderful co-founders, two wonderful co-founders. In my colleges years and then we worked together and identify singularly that this is a problem, that is prevailing to many and other industries. So I knocked on doors to like 50 travel agencies and I talked to them, door to door. I met with some rejection.

But at the end of the day, as I was evaluating, the idea behind I followed that. Yeah, there’s a lot of industries that is selling, highly complex or expensive product or services. At the end of the day, they need a relationship. They need to build a relationship and then they could close the sales.

Generally, the characteristic is that they will have a sales team. Their price point will be anywhere above $10,000 per year. And they have, other channels such as email, sometimes live chat, phone calls, and meeting face to face. Of course there’s pre COVID period. So we thought that, Hey, is there any solution out there that could increase that kind of a conversation, that a customer would have, with what we have with the sales team?

we also found that with the, call channel, cause of working hours because of manual distribution, that normally response time that you would have 42 hours. A customer that sends his request, his intent for a callback, for example, or he wants a sales team to, reply to him it takes 42 hours to get them back to them.

So we thought that hey, 42 hours is way too long as a co-founder and in charge of sales and BD, if I will able to talk to a customer five seconds, when just submitted, the lead. The intent, that he is having is probably going to be high, much higher than 42 hours later. And if I can talk with him, he did that five seconds my odds of converting him or having at least an appointment is going to be much higher than 42 hours later, so that was how the idea started. And then, we went on to have a slew of other products that fit this whole philosophy.

Robert Brill: [00:04:51] So the use case is this, we’d run lead ads on Facebook, it also applies to website. Let’s talk about the lead ad on Facebook, but run it as a lead ad on Facebook.

And immediately as the phone number comes in from Facebook, your system will generate a call out to the person who just submitted their information will generate a call out to me. And through that call, I will be connected directly to the person who just shared their information five seconds later. And I get to talk to the person who’s very much interested in my product at this very moment.

Han Ng: [00:05:35] Right. Exactly. So, we are popular in, the industry of, property. There’s quite a lot of, use case, the real estate, in the US. So agents, realtors. I’m not sure what you guys use to describe property agents there, but they use it a lot, for the listing that they have and they put it there.

Again, the idea is simply to want to talk to the customer where they just saw the listing.

Robert Brill: [00:06:09] Now I understand this also works on the website too, right? Like there’s a, instead of a chat box, it could be a popup box. I mean, it’s the same functionality as a chat box at the bottom of the screen. But instead of initiating a chat, it initiate a call back. Yes.

Han Ng: [00:06:25] Right, right. So, as I mentioned before, we have customers who, use live chat before. But, they thought that, Hey, their sales team are running around or they are just not, they just don’t want to deal with high volume, bulk or deletes. They want to prequalify those customers and have a callback instead.

So, they see us as an alternative to a chat bot or a live chat.

Robert Brill: [00:06:52] And, you know, the functionality, why I think this is interesting, is it elevates any company who uses this technology because I’ve heard I’ve had that technology deployed on me with Amazon. Like if I call Amazon customer service just as a regular customer, I think it was Amazon. It might be Google. It might be Microsoft. One of those companies, probably all of them, really. At the end of the day, you enter your phone number and you got to call back in a few minutes. And, if someone from chat support is there, it’s a really seemless frictionless transaction. The ability to get in touch with customer support.

So the, the functionality is there. So to me, it feels like if I use this with my business, it elevates the level of service that we have on our business. It just makes it a lot, lot better of an experience for our customers.

Han Ng: [00:07:40] Yeah. Initially we use it as a form of a performance marketing tool for marketing and sales.

We realized that there is a bunch of people who use it for support. So we got to talk to them, and it is very interesting. So basically, they have a very small sales team. I’m sorry. The sales team is rather, is it a school and it’s an admissions team. So they just wanna, talk to prospective customer, sorry, students.

So how to use it is that because the team is small. And so they three people that is going to face thousands of tens of thousands of prospective students. Right? of course, there are a lot of content online. They could read it, prospective students could read it, but there are some that, because you’re gonna have to change your lifestyle for the next month, two years or three years, depending on how the course is.

The division of the colleges. So, people still want to talk, to the, whoever is represent the school, especially now where there’s no such thing as a, education fair, at least at this point. So how to do it is the sales team open up pockets of time every day, maybe two, three hours. And they just put in the book, call in for people to schedule a time with them.

So that, the schedule of reschedule of the time and they could get information on regarding this prospective students, what they want before the call happens. So, they even took down the phone number on the website and just let everybody be able to schedule a call, that has anything to do with the admissions.

Robert Brill: [00:09:16] Amazing. So how long did it take you to develop this technology?

Han Ng: [00:09:20] Right. I thought, I wouldn’t say that the technology has been finished, so it’s that ongoing process. We change, and develop a lot of the company and the company will also influence, all this. Right. so we have the very first MVP out, last year, October, right?

So it was launched then. About 40 to 50% of our clients actually in the States. Yeah. So, we have, so we are operating about 40 more countries now, countries, some countries that I didn’t even speak their language. so we rely quite heavily on partners, because they understand the market better than we ever could.

Yeah. So if you were to put a time, as a startup, well fast. I think the conception of the idea, was around 2018, late 2018. We had an alpha testing in September 2019. So that’s about nine months. And when we launched on October, yeah. So, nine months and then October is the global launch.

Robert Brill: [00:10:41] Amazing. And so, you’re based in Singapore. I love Singapore. I didn’t spend enough time there, but we were on a vacation there and I got to say. The Mirlion. Beautiful. All those.

Han Ng: [00:10:54] I think you only remember the food, right?

Robert Brill: [00:10:56] I do remember the food had the, yeah, the story I told you is I had the best Indian food of my life and I’ve never been to India.

So this is the closest right? What is it? India town. Little India in Singapore. I remember that, like, that was a very memorable bill. Anyway. So, Singapore is beautiful. So lush and green. How did you get to the point where you have so much, so many clients in the United States and all over the world?

Like how do you scale that?

Right. I think, there is, some app called a lifetime view platform. That there is such as an app Sumo. I think we went on that first. So, the branding is there and they grew, so it grew organically. It was a branding.

Let’s take a step back. So, you partner with AppSumo so AppSumo promoted you.

Han Ng: [00:11:54] Yeah. For a lifetime view that. We launched.

Robert Brill: [00:11:57] Got it. That was a good, that was a good launching pad for you.

Han Ng: [00:12:02] Yeah, At that point in time we just want to vent it, and know where the customer could be. So, at a point in time, we only had paying customers that, we had with the alpha launch.

So, okay. Everything seems to work. People are paying us. They’re happy. Let’s try and find out where the market could be. Cause it’s a SAS, right? So we just try some of them if they just grew. And it sort of let us know where we could go organically. Over the next few months because of a branding is our branding.

When you put a sort of a chat function that you’ve ever seen on the website, we used capitalize on that. So, we are fortunate. We could actually, consult with, founder of Zopim or Zandesk.

Robert Brill: [00:12:57] Definitely Zen desk.

Han Ng: [00:12:58] Yeah. So Zendesk acquired Zopim was one of the forefront of a live chat, and it’s also founded in Singapore.

So we asked them, about that journey of how they grew, organically. So they, they didn’t fund this at all and they grew and they grew, mainly in the States. The nature of the business then was very similar to how live chat is.

But now it’s a bit different. Our type of customers, are getting bigger. So the organic acquirees that is coming to us is no longer the small mom pop shop anymore as well, but bigger organism whereby they have a systematic, probably with the lead response time where there are so many brands, and they share the same website.

So the leads come in, they have to manage, distribute, and then distribute to the right person in charge of the products. So, it’s a two step process and it got so long that they thought that, Hey, maybe a call would make sense and it’s the call.

Robert Brill: [00:14:06] So what was the, and I want to come back to the growth story.

What was the technology that you solved for? Like, why, why didn’t, why didn’t this exist before in this form?

Han Ng: [00:14:20] I think, that was different or rather, I think it’s the advancement of, or rather the availability of technology, that couldn’t happen 10 years ago. Right. Google actually had a callback function before that people abused it and then they crossed off this feature 10 years ago.

I think it was tool eight or something like that at that point in time. Right. What exactly happened? I think there was a crisscross of many technology. of course, cloud is one of them. Right. And then, next is the, new IP system that has been made readily available, by, people like, Twilio, next bowl.

So we don’t have to deal directly with the telcos one by one of each country, we could, leverage on such technology. So it removes the barrier, that a startup could now do instead of 10 years ago, whereby you have to own maybe the hot asset, physical assets to do it.

Robert Brill: [00:15:33] That sounds very complicated.

Han Ng: [00:15:35] So basically, with the advancement of thermology basically now we are at a stage whereby we can innovate at a lower cost at the lower barrier and bring it to the masses.

Robert Brill: [00:15:48] Okay. So you, you did the promotion with AppSumo.  So ,are you following a playbook? Like the I’m, the founder of Zendesk and that other technology they gave you, they gave you some pointers on how to grow your business?

Han Ng: [00:16:03] Yeah, so, they grew on, organically, throughout the whole five years. Um,They had a kind of, buffer in between, the first. The first two years, they actually were college students. so, they don’t have to worry too much about the pills at that point in time. At least that’s what the, all the tell me.

So ,they actually told to me that the turning point is when they start charging their customers before it was free. And then when they start to charge people, take them seriously. And then it grew then, organically there was the main drive away. So, we use that, I will start charging from day one.

is there any other playbooks, I guess it was an amalgamation of a lot of, SAS founders that we talked to or met online on how to operate in this space, because call callback there wasn’t much of a people that we could learn to learn from. Right. And I guess we are just fortunate that we got funded by 500 startups.

Robert Brill: [00:17:11] Tell us about the process of the funding process. Maybe you want to share about that.

Han Ng: [00:17:20] It’s arduous. It’s probably worse now, in this COVID, situation. So basically, we were invited for Y Combinator twice. So, the first time we flew over to California, Silicon Valley, we had to go to mountain Dale.

Unfortunately, at that point in time, we didn’t get to get in, I already forgotten what the visit was. I think we corrected it. So is it too Ellie and San Jose, and then we got invited again in the next round, which is, I think six months later. So, then we go to India. I’m at a point in time, they saying, well, they will say we wouldn’t, be growing, quick enough, or wasn’t sure about the numbers again.

That was part of the fund-raising process, a buyer, the route, right. also talked to many, other VCs within the network. So, Singapore is fortunate. I mean, our other, we are fortunate to be in Singapore. Right. So, in the whole Southeast Asia, Singapore is the one with the most money abound or the VCs equal, they’re looking for deals.

So we also have, offers there and then, and then we also then got in touch with 500 startups and then they will break quick, and executed the deal. That terms, well, what the, although it was the best, but the branding and the support, we thought that it might be, it might make more sense.

Right. So, the process of, I’m getting the VC, non, non, Southern rock, you have to set up a lot of emails. You have to face rejection, the rejection could hurt you as it stabs your heart, and just have suck it up and say, yes, yes, yes. And you just have to move on. Right. So, I personally talked to about 100, and then.

I focus on BD, business development, and then another founder, JJ. he then, took hell and, went to focus solely on fundraising. you talked about another hundred, so yeah, so that took us 10 months.

Robert Brill: [00:19:35] So you’re saying you got funded by 500 startups is like, did you have to court 500 different startups or is 500 startups like. Like a singular group of people.

Han Ng: [00:19:49] Oh, right. sorry about that. I should have given the introduction about them. So, there are, a few well known accelerators out there, the world in Silicon Valley, especially. So, the first one is called Y Combinator. So I think they have at least seven unicorn startups. I can’t remember which one owns a part in, Airbnb.

I can’t remember that they are so successful. Right. So 500 startups is another, a VC, in terms of the size that they have. It’s I think in the second in the world.

Robert Brill: [00:20:26] So it’s a group, it’s a, it’s a singular group. Got it. Okay.

And so, it sounds like from, you know, I haven’t been involved in this, in the venture funding world, but my understanding is a lot of what they, what these venture capitalists need to see is growth, a steady stream of growth.

And I imagine that what you’ve done with, AppSumo while maybe marginally profitable or a test probably did the most for you to show that you can grow your business, right? 

Han Ng: [00:21:07] Right. I think it’s a double-edged sword. I’m so accessible actually gives you sort of a, a litmus test that you can use, costs free.

They must test that you can use to validate their product and your idea and where your market is. But after that, you need to grow, with that. Leverage that you used before, which is absolutely. You have to, you have to build your own pipeline. You feel have your own inbound, outbound pipeline, how you can prove the extent that you could grow.

Because I mean, the VCs aren’t stupid. They want to know whether you can do this sustainably by yourself. Right. So that’s how it is.

Robert Brill: [00:21:49] So tell us how you grow today. What is your sales and marketing ops practice look like?

Han Ng: [00:21:55] So basically, we have shift, okay. So we were growing month to month, about 22, 23 ish percent pre COVID.

Right. So it was looking quite well. We are on track, of, hitting all our mounts. So then, I mean, COVID hit, so we will hit as small. so the VCs, okay. So we are not founded founded by just one VC, 500 is the, is the lead investor. So we have other VCs as well. So all of them were actually telling us, Hey, that’d be on a, sort of a survival mode, not just on a growth mode because COVID is going to last well, beyond 2022, Yeah, it’s going to be more than three, two, most likely it’s gonna be 20, 21 meet.

and even then economy my majors. Yeah. You sort of, the back to pre COVID about 80 to 90%. That’s what they’re telling us. when Coby just hit. So we had a call. We jump on a call in April. So, we will not bet aggressive, on the growth targets at 30% amount of money anymore. So right now it’s about, 15 to 20%.

That’s where we think, it’s, quality growth, without burning so much and risking it all right. How we do it basically, I think, there is a different channels and pipelines. so basically we use our prospecting. LinkedIn is one very good way of doing it. We do a lot of our content right now, we are ramping out content, especially a lot of videos, video content, guidebooks, playbooks, of there that people can use.

And then, run ads, let them see it through all this content, which also which qualifies and educate the prospects right. And where they are mature enough. We’re actually set up a call with them. Right. So obstacles by things actually meant to validate, the industries that you think might that there might be a fit.

Once you talk to enough, people want to scale it up with ads, but the nurturing process has to be done with content, right. And the content right now with COVID, situation. Video is the one is the best way. I think there’s a term called video sales letter is getting traction right now, at, at least, in the, in the world that I’m in, BD, at a digital space video sales letter is one very effective and powerful tool, that if you don’t know.

Robert Brill: [00:24:44] What’s a video sales letter?

Han Ng: [00:24:46] Basically, if I were to summarize it, you, first of all, you have a persona in mind of who the customer is as with any, sales, you will probably have, or marketing you already know, who your target customer is.

So you talk to them about the problem that they face, the benefit I may bring to you, which is what your current stage is. And the ideal dream state that I could bring you to. Right. And then, I’ll talk about the benefits of what my product can bring to you on the career level, on the personal level, on the company, that right.

It is like a sales pitch, but done very targeted to the personas target of your target audience and the way that it’s video, that can be repayable millions of times.

Robert Brill: [00:25:38] Sure. How do you validate an industry? Like what are the steps you take to validate whether or not an industry is good for you?

Han Ng: [00:25:46] Right. Basically you have to create an Excel sheet, right? And in that Excel sheet, you must have ideas of say, Hey, I think, home security is a good industry that I want to talk about. They wanna go into, the ticket size is about 2000 plus depending, and they want to have a site visit. They want to arrange a call.

So Hey, it’s him to be a good fit, at least for what I think. So then we’ll have a lot of other questions such as. Who should be the one that I’m talking to? Is it the marketing director? If it is then what is his concern? What is his key concern over the next three to six months? What is his KPI now? Can I hit this KPI?

And then, what is this worry? Why didn’t he do it before? what is the difference that I can provide to him? I have to answer all these questions. Then you draft out a pitch and then you try to test it out. people, you know, referrals, LinkedIn, reach out to any of them, right? We have to hustle the way through once we get enough, tests, numbers about close about 50.

That would be a good number. And then you can, you can cause it as validated and then move on.

Robert Brill: [00:26:59] So it’s clear that you’re, you’re bringing a, business strategy and marketing prowess to this organization.

Han Ng: [00:27:06] Maybe not the marketing prowess, more of maybe setting up the processes, making that connections, doing other calls.

Yeah, because the cofounder is the one quit, actually, JJ, who is actually helping me with the marketing, because if not, it would get to be too big of a monster to deal with myself.

Robert Brill: [00:27:29] Wow. So for the rest of 2020 and to 21, it’s, protect your, protect your business. Grow at a, a little bit of a lower month over month scale.

I mean, that’s really, I mean, it’s good that you can grow month over month and actually grow in this time. Now I would actually argue that the current moment in some ways, while it changes the demeanor of how consumers think about spending money, that’s, that’s going to be one massive challenge.

For those who are looking to spend money, you’re going to provide a outsides value because you mitigate a lot of challenges that, otherwise can’t be, can’t be solved for.

Han Ng: [00:28:15] Right. And so you’re fortunate to be in a position whereby we can use, as we see the usage and behavior of a certain industries, are there a couple of teams actually get the call?

That’s a clear indication of their sales, right. And then who are actually at zero. So we found that you can categorize a sale in three manners. We’ve seen that in the US data. We see that in the Singapore data and in the Australia data. So basically, the three categories are those that, are hurt very badly.

They tend to be in the travel space or the hospitality space, anywhere between 80 to 90%. That’s right. Eight 80% – 100% revenue drop. Right. We are going to drop. It’s not that bad. It’s you have to refund. That is a big hole that they caught. They are having trouble to cover.

Robert Brill: [00:29:08] Right? Not only are you not getting more money in money that you have and you have to refund and you might have spent against that all ready.

Han Ng: [00:29:15] Oh yeah. And they have no idea when this thing will be over. Right. And they still have to pay the stuff. So if there’s no government support, I mean, you can see the airlines are going bust here and there everywhere. yeah, so those are the ones that get badly affected. And then those who are actually doing okay, suffering, they don’t didn’t suffer that much.

It’s been manageable. So their revenue is about 90 to 110%. So it’s just a normal economic activity, right. Or they’ve had to be in social services, logistics. In the medical space. So pediatrician, I mean they still consider social service. Critical services and these services, unfortunately, in my view, they are, they have a limit on how much more that they can provide.

Right. Your clinic is the physical clinic, right? You can’t scale 10 times more because there is 10 times more demand. Unfortunately, you can’t it stops there. So that’s why they can grow, but there’s a cap on how much they can grow. Right. And then those that are doing very well. I’ve seen it one with 600% increase.

I think, one of our case studies is for White Jacobs. They help people with credit repair. It’s great. At this point in time, you want the door, your mortgage fee, et cetera. You just want to have a better credit score. So you work with them. They help you work out, what you have and improve your credit score.

So you can get a better interest rate for all your purchases. So, these people were winning far and few between, but they exist. they tend to be providing services and they can do and operate online. So I had those pools and alcohol that green about three times more or four times a year. Say a whole.

No. So what to do they the drink? Yeah. So, yeah, that’s the reality that we’re facing in COVID pandemic situation right now.

Robert Brill: [00:31:21] Very good. Cool Han, I think we’re going to wrap up the interview. This is fantastic. I think, you know, what, what I like about this is, you know, the, the mission for me has always been, I want to learn from really smart people about the things that their experiences, if I were only, and I think you dropped a lot of really interesting points of view around how other businesses can grow and scale.

And I particularly like your strategic guidelines for identifying and, validating an audience. How do people tell us about your website? How do people reach you? Tell us a little bit more about like the costs or whatever you want to share about your service so that people can like, give it, give it a run.

Han Ng: [00:32:02] Right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for giving me, at time on bit. Basically, you can reach out to me, via our website. It’s called novocall.co Just go there, visit, what we have and to get the case studies see whether they resonate with you. And if they do just, send you inquiries there and, I’ll follow up with you.

Just mentioned that you saw this video, just mentioned Robert. Then I’ll have a call with you and see how we can help. So basically if you want to have more conversations with you clients, with your, prospects and you’re spending ad dollars to bring them in, you want to fix the leaky bucket that you have in your sales process.

Robert Brill: [00:32:58] Very good Han from Novocall. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Han Ng: [00:33:02] Right? Thank you so much for inviting me, Robert. Thank you everyone.

Robert Brill: [00:33:07] Thank you for listening to this episode of the LA Business Podcast. If you like what we’re doing on this podcast, please consider subscribing on Apple or Google play, leaving a five star review and sharing with your friends.

If you have any questions, comments, or recommendations for a guest you’d like to hear on this podcast, please email me [email protected] Thank you. Have a fantastic day.

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Credits

Audio Production – Echegoyen Productions

Creation and Marketing – BrillMedia.co, a hyperlocal advertising company.