5 Questions with Catherine Tan, Co-Founder of Notey

20140887_ Startup HK
Before co-founding Notey, Catherine was an investment banker for a number of years on both the regulatory and derivatives side. While she enjoyed the fast-paced and well-compensated nature of a finance job, she felt it was too removed from the dynamism of change and innovation of the entrepreneurial realm – a place where she’s always felt drawn to.

Yearning to build something from the ground up that makes people’s lives simpler, Catherine teamed up with her husband and co-founder Kevin Lepsoe to create their first startup.

What’s coming up for Notey? Besides presenting at CoCoon’s Final Pitch at the end of this month, they’ll also be representing Hong Kong at TechCrunch Disrupt SF next month as a part of the Hong Kong ICT Delegation with Cyberport.

What is your startup?

Some think of Notey as a Pinterest for Blogs, others call it a Tumblr meets Wikipedia. We think of it more as a search engine for the best blog posts on any topic imaginable.

We’ve basically screened through the searchable blogosphere, filtered out big media and businesses, and honed in on independent, high-quality blog posts. It was an incredibly manual process to start – taking three people around four months searching continuously for blogs on almost every topic imaginable. Today, we have the best blogs posts on over 500,000 topics and have automated this process so the quality continually improves and there’s no more manual work on our side.

With Notey, you search for a topic – maybe you’re looking for Wedding Blogs, Watch Blogs, Travel Blogs, anything really, and you’ll find it! What’s better, is that you can filter these blogs by location – maybe you’re traveling to Singapore and want a local’s perspective or maybe you’re planning a wedding overseas and want to look at local wedding blogs. We keep it super simple and easy to use.

We’ve also added a social layer so you can save posts you like into albums (kind of like Pinterest, but for Blogs), share them with friends and see what blog posts your friends read – in that last sense, it’s kind of like the Facebook Newsfeed but without personal content. It’s purely about socializing around great, hidden stories.


How did you come up with this idea?

One day, I was looking for “travel blogs’ to find some travel inspiration and realized how difficult it is to Google blogs. The first 2 pages came up with blog hosting companies, lists of travel blogs or big media like CNN or Huffington Post but that wasn’t what I was looking for – I wanted to find high-quality travel blogs from people who had been there and done that.

My husband Kevin and I were thinking that everyday, millions of others were probably doing the same thing – searching for first-hand detailed information, in most cases, blogs – it could be about a product, a place, an experience, anything really. But the problem is we end up spending so much time in that iterative, frustrating search process and not enough time actually ‘consuming’ the content we’re looking for.

So, why don’t we streamline this search process and just go find the good stuff for millions of others like us? If we invest months of continuous searching, automate the process for others, and then present results in a beautiful way, we will not only be creating a fun, enjoyable experience, we’ll be saving millions of people tons of time.

Think about it – if you had a friend getting married who spent days, weeks, months trying to find good wedding blogs, why would you want to repeat that process? Sure, you could just ask them – but word-of-mouth is inefficient and this is the digital age. We’ve found really good blogs on any topic imaginable, and if you don’t like our suggestions, look at the blog posts your friends read – it’s that simple.

Who are you targeting and how big is the market in HK/Asia?

Well, think about anyone who’s ever had difficulty finding reviews, opinions or experiences – the things you’d find on blogs. Virtually everyone reads blogs but there are clearly some areas where people have a strong need for our product ‘today’.

Take the weddings domain for example. There are around 20 million new people each year that look for wedding blogs – for them, we make this fun and super simple. Travel also – it’s another one of those domains where people are exhaustive. They’ll spend countless hours researching where to go and what to do – it’s not about seeing how things are ranked, it’s about finding the local voice from people who have been there and done that.

Students interestingly enough find Notey super useful – You could say they waste a lot of time online browsing around but we find about half their time is curiosity driven – looking up say Horses, Astronomy, and Sustainability among many others. They call us a Tumblr meets Wikipedia and it makes us happy to know that to them, Notey can be a fun waste of time learning! Not only do they like browsing around, they say it’s a good resource for school projects. Win!

The market is truly massive – Brands like what we’re doing and we highlight 3rd party independent content. We can also go to hundreds of consumer brands and say “hey Nike, here are 100 people who have blogged about you this week.”

Ultimately we’re an English language site though so our audience is limited in some respect, but that may change in the future.


What are your future plans for your startup?

Ubiquitous, Pervasive and Omnipresent. There are a number of ways of saying it but we want to be everywhere and everyone’s go-to resource for blogs and casual search. For the bulk of search use-cases, it’s less about finding one answer, and more about context and finding a series of good answers. That’s what we do and we do it well.

Where will our product go? Where will we be? Well, our mobile web platform will be coming out shortly so you can view us on any mobile device. We’re always interested in meeting people excited about our product. We’ve had a good chunk of investor interest and a couple of prominent SF tech companies have reached out suggesting we sit down and chat so that’s uber cool. Once we close our current round of funding we’ll be hiring in a few places and likely couch surfing in San Fran, LA, New York, London…wherever we need to be. Anyone out there want to lend us a sofa and be part of the story? Just like our product, we as a team too plan to be pervasive!

1 Benefit and 1 Challenge in the HK startup scene?

1 Benefit: Hong Kong is so dense that you can meet 5-6 people a day for coffee that you can demo your product, get feedback and move quickly. If you have a consumer-facing company you need to get as many opinions as possible in the fastest time.
1 Challenge: While the ecosystem has grown a lot in the last three years with guys like 9GAG on the consumer side and Divide on the enterprise side, we don’t have that billion-dollar tech company yet that can really catalyze the ecosystem. A company like this not only attracts attention, talent and money to the city, it lays the foundation for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Catherine Tan on Startbase.HK: Catherine Tan

Notey on Startbase.HK: Notey

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  1. Anthony Bernardo says:

    All the best Catherine.