Lessons Learned Working In Asia And Beyond

It is with bittersweet emotions that I am announcing my departure as Chief Growth Officer at M17 and as LiveAF CEO. I’ve made so many friends and learned an immense amount, but after over 3 years with the company, I’ve decided it’s the right time to move on to new adventures and challenges. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, so I feel the itch to reset my mind and then start a new venture.

I’m very confident in the future of M17, and I’m certain that I’ll be missing out on exciting milestones in the near future, which makes this all the more difficult. As soon as I decided to leave, I put a sharp focus on setting up the framework so that each of the teams that I oversee will thrive into the future. As I’ve told my team members, I see it as my failure if they fall short after I leave, and I’ll gladly take some credit if they succeed.


As CEO of LiveAF, I’m proud to say we’ve established a positive community, quality team, and solid brand to build upon as we aim to takeover the US market! We’re setting new records daily with our content, we’re rolling out a buzz-worthy Q3 marketing campaign, and are filling in the final pieces of a fully-empowered local team. We’ve come a long way since I arrived in early October last year with just one teammate.

We lit up Hollywood with our launch party and billboards featuring LiveAF talent, got featured on CheddarTV and Business Insider, sent the first-ever petite model to the London Fashion Week runway, whisked 5 of our winners to Cabo for a vacation video shoot, raced through the desert in the Run Rally, shot an NYC billboard ad that is launching soon, and so much more!

For certain, we’ve learned many lessons along the way and have much to improve still. I want to thank all of our supportive community members who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with on LiveAF. Thank you for your patience, your encouragement, and your teamwork in building this platform. I still plan on streaming on my LiveAF account, so I’ll see you there!

I’m passing the driver’s seat for LiveAF to the very experienced Thomas Yu, whom I’m confident will take us to new successes!

Sincerely AF,
Colin Hodge
CEO @ LiveAFCGO @ M17 Entertainment@Colin on LiveAFP.S. I’m including a history of my time at M17 for those who are curious. I hope some of the key lessons prove useful!

History: The Beginning

I first met our M17 Group CEO, Joseph Phua, in a tiny Taipei Paktor office in early 2016. We talked at length about the organic growth of my app, Down, Paktor’s growth and success with fundraising, and how we might work together. Little did I know that my next few years would be spent on everything from leading marketing in a country where I didn’t speak the language to launching a livestreaming app in the US. When I first joined Paktor through the acquisition of Down, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I never would have predicted that we’d merge with an exciting livestreaming app, go on to become the industry leader in Developed Asia, and that I’d return to the US to launch our foray into the global market!

Paktor Labs

I started my time by founding Paktor Labs, which served as the in-house entrepreneurial home for new and growing apps. It’s from within Paktor Labs that we were able to profitably grow the Goodnight and Down apps from $0 to multi-million dollars in annual revenue. I’m quite proud of the Goodnight team’s achievements — kudos to Andy and his team!

Key Lessons: Give motivated team members guidance and remove roadblocks, then get out of their way. Be careful scaling ad spend without profitability on unit economics.

17 Marketing

After a year, I visited 17 in Taipei and joined the team, at Jo’s request, as VP of Growth. We recognized some great opportunities for improvement and growth in the Marketing team, as well as a gap in leadership, so I also stepped in as interim Marketing Manager for nearly a year. I won’t lie: it was super daunting to take on marketing for Taiwan without speaking Mandarin or a deep understanding of the local culture. With the help of some adaptable and hard-working team members, we were able to greatly increase marketing performance while reducing losses, launch exciting outdoor campaigns, like our taxis, LED trucks, and movie theatre ads, set up quality app store optimization processes, and establish a more data-driven marketing approach. The Marketing Team has continued to deliver results under the experienced and steady leadership of Jessie!

Key Lessons: Changing mindsets & habits is much harder than changing leaders. Apply the same core elements of great marketing — they will apply to any region if you utilize local teammates to tweak around the edges.

Celebrating with our 17Live Marketing and Growth Teams during M17’s 2018 Spring Party

17 Growth

On the growth team, we were able to uncover many useful insights that led to product and marketing wins, such as the Poke feature (to engage users and encourage reciprocal actions). We also started some innovative offline recruiting of VIPs in Taiwan, which we’ve seen deployed in Hong Kong and the US. Finally, we helped start the company on a more data-driven approach, partnering with the Data Team to have a Growth KPI dashboard, regular tracking, and better result analysis. I’m glad to see the Growth and Data Teams have joined and continue to expand their impact on the company’s key metrics, with Hannah evolving from a Growth Team Specialist to helping now to lead the Data Science and Analytics Team!

Key Lessons: Affecting change across departments is a huge challenge — it works best when you concentrate your focus on a few key initiatives, gather support from multiple angles, and make the business case in terms that the other department cares about.

17 Global Expansion

Following building the Marketing and Growth Teams, we started our Global Expansion Team to help support and grow our newer regions. As a small, scrappy team, we helped unlock paying user and revenue growth in Hong Kong, smoothed out some communication and processes, grew Malaysia revenues, set up our Singapore company, and launched our company in the USA, LiveAF. Big thanks to our Global Expansion team in Taipei, the HK Team, and all of the partner teams that helped us along the way! This team is now repositioned to be the Global LaunchPad Team, and I’m sure that it’s in excellent hands with Watts at the helm!

Key Lessons: Insist on more resources as needed to reach ambitious goals, instead of making due with what you have. Hire faster to avoid team overload — just because startups start small and scrappy doesn’t mean it’s always ideal. Move quicker to a strategy of autonomous regional teams, so that they are less dependent on HQ.

Note: This was cross-published at https://www.getliveaf.com/post/liveaf-ceo-announces-departure