How I Built a Google Chrome Extension
To Read Smarter and Remember More
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi! My name is Masa! I started Kaffae – an extension that helps you remember more from articles read. Members join the platform to visualize their personal reading data, update reading activity with their friends, and discover new articles and books.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
My personal story starts with my passion for self-education. I have a professional background in software engineering. But the first time I took computer science back in university, I barely passed the course with 51%. Despite the formal academic labelling of “you are not meant for computer science”, I started teaching myself programming ever since. Thanks to the encouragement from my dad, I could land a career as the engineer. Years have passed; I wanted to give something back for those who enjoy self-learning.
The internet today has great many resources, ranging from Coursera to tutorial/how-to blogs. The problem is everything is very disorganized and hard to know if you are progressing towards your goal or not. That’s why I wanted to make a personal reading tool that helps with this journey.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Lack of division of labor was the hardest challenge. As a one man shop, I had to do everything by myself. Coming from a technical background, building the product was not that difficult. Everything else that was necessary to build business especially on promoting and closing the feedback loop gap was really challenging.
It was hard to know if I was doing anything right or wrong. For any task that’s new, it would have helped with a brainstorm session with someone else.
Who is your target market?
The primary target is people in early 20s who are new to a career and are trying to learn more to progres their professional life. Lately, I’ve noticed the pull from international audiences particularly from Europe. They are probably motivated to read more English articles with their conscious choice.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
So far, I’ve focused marketing on the online community. Since the early days, Reddit has been the primary source of user inflow. And now, I’m in the midst of testing a new channel from YouTube to blogging.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
The product includes a daily and weekly reading update. So Kaffae can be part of user’s regular routine. Another strength in making this product stick is the nature of web extension. It lets Kaffae utilize its ability to be part of your everyday laptop experience that has not yet been contaminated by email spammers or soliciting app notifications yet.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Since I worked solo, the part I particularly tried to do was to split the time of a day to wear different huts. For example, the morning is set up for product development and the evening is for promotion. That minimized the amount of effort it takes for context switching.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Splitting clearly between the business side and product side softwares made it easy to manage all those services.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
The Startup community often gets excited about funding and monetization. But I intentionally avoided that in the early stage. That let me have enough room for creative exploration. I think I got that part right. That is to set a deadline and play with the product as much as possible. Otherwise, it becomes as boring as the next one available in the competitive market.
The part I’d do differently is I would focus on coming up with the strategy of how to close the feedback loop as quickly as possible. I didn’t think enough about not only where to find customers but how to find those who give you quality feedback. It’s much better to start narrow and secure a committed group of customers to get the feedback continuously. That step should have been taken before the product development. That would have sped up the venture much more.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The best part of being an entrepreneur is when the user/customer steps out of their ways to give an appreciation. I’ve received Twitter messages of a complement multiple times. That’s been very motivating to me.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
It’s different when you have a co-founder. The entrepreneurship journey is quite lonesome in the beginning. There is no one you can share the conflict or solve the problem with. What helped was going to a coworking space and talking with other like-minded entrepreneurs.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
For day to day practical advice, I consume a lot of videos from Y-Combinator. It helped me focus on getting the product feedback early on rather than being distracted with monetization or marketing.
For overall vision, I read Zero To One by Peter Thiel multiple times. Thanks to the book, I could differentiate what it means to build a product that is truly unique and not from copying what has worked in other places.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
in the next 2-3 year term, I want to make it more financially stable with backing from VCs potentially. Entering the B2B market of corporate training is also an option to diversify the business.
For team members, due to the nature of software business, it is self-sufficient with a minimum number of people with occasional contractors. Another branch of growth can come from having an engineering team. There’s a place of improvement leveraging emerging AI technology.