Founder Stories Vol 04. with Thanh Du of OSS
What is your morning routine like?
My night time routine set up my morning routine. After working from home and lockdown, I found out that I prefer to sleep late and wake up late. I play the guitar before going to bed to calm myself down and then journal before going to bed. Usually, I get up around 8 or 9 am, depending on who I have meetings with on that day. I slog around, pull up the blinds and then head straight to the shower. The shower wakes me up. I won't have the lights on in the shower as it's too bright for the eyes. Sometimes I shower with candles or in the dark. It almost feels like meditating too. You have time in the shower to think about and reflect on what happened the previous day. Then I just get dressed, look up my calendar and start my day. After the first meeting usually, I have my breakfast. Almost every day, I have the same breakfast daily, its oats with roasted nuts, pumpkin seeds, Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, a fruit either a banana, apple, pear or berries, and top it off with coco pops and milk.
I see a lot of art in the background; what does art mean to you, and how do you navigate the art world?
I do not have a lot of experience navigating the art world. I am more of an observer of art. The ones you see in the background are paintings I did myself. Before starting Oss, I started doing digital and 3D arts. This is something I enjoy doing as my pass time. What art means to me is that it's a place where you feel safe to express yourself without being judged. It's almost like forming a relationship with what you are creating. It's a creation right, you don't really know where it takes you, and it is spontaneous and is based on what you are drawn towards on a day to day basis. A lot of what you see behind me is the sky and the city. I am very drawn to the sky.
Tell us about your Professional Background?
I studied Bachelor of Arts and business with a major in marketing. I worked at a social media marketing firm for a bit, worked enough that wanting to quit and not want to work for someone else anymore. I decided to move out of corporate life and started my own business with my partner, Paper Whale Studio, a video content marketing company. A lot of my background had been social media marketing and marketing for not for profit organizations and then running my own video content creation business. Eventually, I started my current start up Oss in a whole new data industry, technology and start up world. I had no idea about these when I came in.
Tell us more about Oss?
How do you balance working between Oss and Blue Whale Studio? Do they demand a different version of Thanh?
It's not that different or complicated from my perspective. Art and creativity are problem-solving when you paint; you think about how to use colours and paint the picture you need. With video, you think about how you make this content authentic to users. A startup is all about problem-solving. Even though one is around content creation, creativity, and tech, it is not far from each other because it's all problem solving, which is something I am good at, such as coming up with ideas.
Talk to us about your failures and struggles during the journey
I took up coding classes hoping I could code independently, and realized it's hard. That was my first failure. And that was when I developed an appreciation for all the work developers do. I realize my strength is not coding but marketing. I started finding ways to find people who could cover my weakness to focus on my strength in marketing and talking to people. From there on, I reached out to people, whoever would listen to me. I spoke to them about my idea of looking for developers interested in my start up and the problem it solves. One by one, I recruited people. I was transparent and vulnerable, telling people I have no money, no experience, and it is just an Idea that I really care about. I found similar minded people who are in the team currently. As a first-time founder, you get excited to build your app, execute your idea, and then you get information that we are going about it in the wrong way, or something won't work. You must ask the team to stop, pivot and redo everything; it's so hard. Then, when we took the app to a validator, we were told to talk to people to validate the idea. We realized we should move slowly in the right direction. You come across constant challenges.
Given your marketing background, can you tell us how to market with no or limited money?
I had no connections, and it was very challenging, but the constraint allowed for creativity. The best way is person-to-person marketing, just like before social media such as Facebook came in. We created a website, shared it with friends and connections on Facebook, and requested them to share a network effect. There was a time where the website was built, and we were told to test it by making an add. We just spent $10 on Facebook, and many people came through that too. But we wanted to do it more organically, and we are doing it that way. I had no connections and had to work through my connections too. I would google the Startup Victoria community and go to any event that came up. Monash accelerator, startup Victoria pitches, Silicon Beach. I connected with anyone interested. I have spoken to 100's of people and made some great connections.
Where do you see Oss in future?
Currently, in the industry, data is harvested without your knowledge. I want to build a future where
individuals feel empowered by owning their data and having transparency around how their data is used, making money out of their own data, making data an asset/currency just like any other asset. Oss is the first step toward data ownership. It's the Airbnb for data that allows people to rent their data to businesses as insights.