Sean Guo is a father of a 3 year-old and the founder of Kizkaz. He started his career as a futures trader and in 2011 co-founded Enigma Capital, backed by both Australian and Chinese investors. He also co-founded Blue Alpaca Apps, a software lab which has created a couple of social apps but failed all. After closing down both businesses in 2014 he started Kizkaz with a vision of making life easier for parents by connecting them to local services and activities.
I believe business plays an important role in driving social change. New technologies and products created by businesses can help by pushing society to advance to the next level.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
It was early 2014 when I was still managing a hedge fund, dropping off and picking up my daughter from childcare. I realised I had no idea what she was up to during those hours I was at work, and speaking to other parents, they didn’t know what their kids were up to either. On the day Swift was released by Apple, I began coding Kizkaz Observation, Kizkaz’s childcare solution, alongside Kizkaz – the Parent app.
Together they form a link between families and childcare centres, so parents never miss a moment while their child is at childcare, and childcare educators can easily plan children’s time, adhere to government standards, and keep parents updated. Since inception, more than 25 000 photos, videos and learning stories have been shared by the app.
Kizkaz didn’t stop there. I started compiling events all over Melbourne and brought on my childhood friend, Alec Jiang, to help. The missing piece was brand personality, and I brought in Jasmine Elias, who had previously grown children’s communities, completing the “Original Three” of Kizkaz. Alec, Jasmine and myself have since developed the product together, reaching in a few months milestones that we had initially predicted would be a year away.
Today the Kizkaz parent’s app includes events, activities, recipes, playgrounds, parks, shopping catalogues, childcare feeds and a free, on-demand personal assistant service called ‘Genie for parents’. It also has real-time chatting features which allow users to share these contents in the conversation.
Can you please explain your business model?
Our social system allows rich content, including recipes, places and events to become a natural part of conversation. With this technology, our long-term goal is to allow users to chat and share products by directly recommending it to their friends and buy in one click. We believe the future of shopping is a balance of social media and word of mouth, as a means to help businesses reach customers exponentially.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
Since our seed round in July 2015 from two Angel investors we have achieved amazing results on product and content development. While we are still focusing on validating new ideas in Melbourne, we will be working on expanding our existing features to Sydney and other capital cities in 2016.
How do you make ideas happen?
We build features step-by-step. Aligned with our vision, and based on the user feedback, we prioritize and focus on only one idea at a time. This approach helps us to release the next must-have features quickly in every one or two weeks. It also helps us to maintain a high monthly active user count of 78%, a weekly active user count of 55%, and an October growth rate of 35%.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
Apart from the funding, our seed round leading investor Peng Xiao, CEO of Wanzhoumo.com, a leading events and activity platform in China, has given us insightful advice on every aspect of the business.
What does your typical day look like?
I am an early bird. Wake up 5.50am and catch up with overnight industry news and emails. Drop my girl into childcare before 7am and come into office at 8.30am, and focus on coding product features until early afternoon. After lunch I discuss things with the team to make sure they all have what they need from my end. Then go back to product development until 5pm. Dinner with my family and play/story time with my girl until 8pm. Continue work until around midnight.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
As we started from a childcare app, it was very difficult to find anyone who would try our alpha version. I visited about 50 centres and then managed to get three centres to trial the alpha version — a half done product with limited features and without the Parent app. Ryan Road Childcare Centre and Swimming School, one of the largest centre in Melbourne, trialed our buggy product, gave us lots of insightful feedbacks and became our customer after that.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Coming from a trading background I would give one working trading strategy on futures: cross-market commodity arbitrage using cointegration. For example, London Copper vs Shanghai Copper. A portfolio of different pairs would give you an edge if money management is done right.
Do you know of any other companies that you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
Thread and Moochies are child safety apps and devices that help parents track their children using location-based technology. Thread needs an app to track and works for children aged from 8 years, while Moochies only need a watch. They were not the first one in the international market, but these technologies should benefit our society.
What about internationally?
There is so much cool stuff out there and I would like to mention ClassDojo, a very impressive school-student-parent solution. They create a very effective way to engage parents and student in the loop.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I believe business plays an important role in driving social change. New technologies and products created by businesses can help by pushing society to advance to the next level. Google, for instance, dominates the online search engine for years, however they have invested significantly in technology innovation in many different areas. This research cannot be done by any individual or small groups without being backed by businesses. Many industries will eventually benefit from these innovations.
Speaking of affecting social change, Is there a particular charity you’d like to support?
We will, in the future, use a portion of the income from the childcare app to support a charity that helps in saving the environment. By using more digital communication to protect the trees, we can create the environment for our children. We would be also interested in supporting a special needs children’s charity.
Can you name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea ?
We are always looking for business partners who would like to provide products or services on our platform. Any collaboration ideas are also welcome.
We are very keen to have advisors on board to help us build relationships to various business channels and we’re expected to pitch another round of funding in the next couple of months.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
Big data is a way of analysing user behaviors to provide better user experience. However as so much personal information has been collected, how can the industry provide better protection to this data?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Bond Street Kitchen is my favourite on Queen Street near Flinders Lane!