Leading Millennials: Yiwen Chan, Bolt Media

"While you’re not going down a defined path, it doesn’t mean that you’re not learning and not growing."

Yiwen left her job as a reporter at The Business Times in Singapore about a year ago to build her startup, Bolt. The marketplace service helps to connect creative agencies and companies with content creators (Disclosure: I’m one of Bolt’s advisors). Yiwen was featured in Forbes’ 30-under-30 2016 Asia and Singapore Tatler’s Generation T. You can reach her on email at yiwen@boltmedia.co.

She appears here as part of our stories to identify the evolving generation of professionals in the service of journalism.

What do you love about what you do now?

Content is close to my heart. When I worked as a journalist, content was the life force our paper. Readers depended on what we said to plan their work and their life. But I witnessed the struggle that media faced: Readership was declining, advertising dollars were declining, and a business model based on traditional advertising became increasingly unsustainable.

I don’t create as much content as I did as a journalist, but what I love about my current work is that I get to help brands transform themselves into their own media companies and also help content creators find relevant work.

 

You’ve done this for almost a year now. Where do you struggle the most?

Being an entrepreneur and starting a business is fundamentally different from being a journalist. As a journalist, you’re most concerned about whether your story adds value to your readers or if you’re following your newsroom’s guidelines.

When you’re an entrepreneur, your horizon expands. There are so many duties that you wouldn’t have experienced in a newsroom — fund raising, sales, account management, and product development. Focus is one of the top challenges. With endless things to do each day, what should you do today that will create the most value for your business?

 

What do you think the next three years will look like for you?

Right now, our content creator base is strong in Singapore. We have a few good case studies from some amazing clients. The next three years is about expanding across Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific. The challenge will be how we manage our processes across many fragmented markets. We have to figure out the most effective way to manage content creation across multiple markets, cultures, languages and relationships.

 

When you look at the path you’re on as an entrepreneur, do you think of this as a career? Or does the concept of career no longer apply?

I don’t think of it as a career anymore. I think it’s about building up skill sets. While you’re not going down a defined path, it doesn’t mean that you’re not learning and not growing. The popular definition of a career is to join at the bottom, and rise to the top, step-by-step growth till retirement. But for somebody who is an entrepreneur, you have to do away with attaining comfort in your retirement. As an entrepreneur, there are no guarantees. There’s no time for rest.

Innovation doesn’t happen when you stick to people who are like you, or by focusing too much on the same industry. It happens when you explore different areas.

 

If you had to impart one piece of advice to anyone looking to do something like that, what would it be?

Don’t overly focus on one thing. Look at it with the 80–20 principle. The 80 percent is where you focus on the things you’re passionate about, the things you can see yourself waking up every morning to do, or even working on weekends. It’s also important to allocate time to explore other areas, or other industries.

Innovation doesn’t happen when you stick to people who are like yourself, or by focusing too much on the same industry. It happens when you explore different areas.

 

So how do you find inspiration and grow your mind?

Well, both my co-founders are very different from me. They specialize in areas that I’m weak at. As a team, we’re well rounded. Compare that with someone who’s completely like me — there would be less conflict, things would be smooth sailing. I don’t think that’s sustainable for a lean startup.

 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a boss, mentor or teacher?

One mentor told me not to overly compare ourselves to competitors. If you do, you’d only be as big as your competitors. You won’t be better than them, you won’t push the boundaries.

The other advice I got was that you should just do what you’re really passionate about and love doing, instead of living for other people.

Be prepared to change fast. Learn skill sets that are transferable, instead of those that are only relevant for one industry.

 

If someone came up to you seeking advice on whether he or she should get into journalism, what would you say?

Depends on your definition of journalism! (Laughs)

There is the Bloomberg model of journalism. There is the New York Times version of journalism. Then there is the BuzzFeed version of journalism. There are so many different versions of journalism, so keep an open mind.

The industry is changing fast. Business models that work now may not work tomorrow, or when you graduate, or even ten years down the road.

So be prepared to change fast. Learn skill sets that are transferable, instead of those that are only relevant for one industry. Learn how to learn. Fast.


Leading Millennials

We’re looking for people with an elasticity in their views of media and journalism. It’s rare.

The faces of people in the service of journalism are often found on stage. They are often the heads of their newsrooms. They are often men. There’s little space on stage for the younger people sitting further down the hierarchy of these newsrooms. I want to tell their stories because some of them could one day redefine this industry.

So if you want to be featured here (or know of someone who should), drop me an email. I’m alansoon@thesplicenewsroom.com.

Co-Founder, CEO of The Splice Newsroom. Covering the business of media transformation in Asia. Follow Alan Soon on Twitter.

Our newsletters are read around the world by some of the smartest people in media. Subscribe here.

more about us

Hello. We’re Splice. We report, teach, and fund the transformation of media. We are building an ecosystem that develops new models of media, and we’re calling it Splice 100.

Our newsletters are read by some of the smartest people in global media.

We’re Alan Soon and Rishad Patel, and there’s more about us here.

Splice is available for speaking engagements, to run workshops, product sponsorships, custom research, design audits and interventions, and consulting. Email us.

We also have a Telegram group. Come say hi.

Thanks for subscribing!