The Story of SAUCEink

This is technically a repost. I thought it might be good to “share the story” here as well.

Sometimes I feel like when you’re too engross in something, you start to forget the true reason behind it. I feel like in the recent months, I’ve been so absorbed with just getting more clients, I’m forgetting the nature of why SAUCEink was created.

The essence of it at the simplest of form was basically for people to discover and shop for things they love.

It all started out cause I needed a FYP. I mean, yes, I’ve always wanted to have my own magazine and novels (done both, though the novel was ghosted and singular). It’s only when I HAD TO, that I really put in the effort to materialise it – cause of FYP, “blog” writing and my job as a writer kept me going then.

But what’s the USP for my noob-made magazine? You might think this is just another story, but it’s a true one. It’s not overly emotional, and some might not even consider this as a pain-point, but to people that can understand my perspective there and then, you’d understand the agony and desperation.

So, I was really flipping through Vogue (can’t remember the issue, and it’s probably not the current issue even then) and set my eye on “this” bag (I have a thing for bags, and I’m not talking about the brand aspect) – love Vogue btw, still do.

This bag took my mind of FYP, but drove me into a bag-hunt (witch-hunts might be easier, since witches are not common, imagine a catalogue of a million bag designs…) craze. Don’t tell me things like, “It’s easy to find anything online,” it wasn’t that easy in 2009. In fact, I think it’s still not that easy at present day (though the product recognition technology that ViSenze developed really made life easier. Think about it, if you saw an item you liked, what’s the chances you know what’s it called? And if you don’t, with so much information online these days, which decade before you can actually find THAT item #justsaying).

I think it was two weeks later, it hit me…

When SAUCEink first started, it was a digital flip-page style magazine. You could flip using your tablet, click on an item, and purchase it from the brand’s online store. The idea wasn’t all that complex, though it had its challenges. You have no idea how much work goes into putting a magazine together. A digital one is no different. Furthermore, we made our’s in a way that you can “print-on-demand” so everything is in your traditional 300 DPI but with bigger fonts for mobile reading.

After FYP, and I think I aced it, this project continued.

Google a little, in 2009, digital flip-page magazines were not that common yet, so we’re pretty early in the game. But the game mechanics changed through time. For one, damn mobile devices became smaller and smaller. It works against the appeal of a magazine. For a book, it’s fine. The text is what people read. But for fashion, it isn’t. We didn’t create an ebook, it’s a digital flip-page style magazine. The appeal of flipping the pages and feeling the visuals is essential to its survival. A smaller interface makes it more challenging.

Again, don’t give me bull about UX/UI, Facebook looked like crap back in the days too. You grew with it, so you might have forgotten how the UX/UI looked then compared to now – see your husband/wife daily, it’s almost impossible to tell when he/she loses or puts on weight gradually, take a photo from before and put it beside his/her face now and uh-huh, you’ll get what I mean.

We needed to innovate and Zinio as well as Issuu were both up and rising.

My brain spiralled like crazy. I went from thinking of how to reprogramme the whole magazine into a software with internal ecommerce structure, video capability… up to creating a virtual reality shopping mall (inspired by SecondLife and one episode of WinxClub, yes it’s a cartoon, and yes, I watch cartoon, I was a huge fan till the extend the PR invited me for their movie gala and my seat was unfortunately taken by another Sabrina who was like 10 years old, so I couldn’t even fight her for it, cause she is an ACTUAL child and I’m already an adult. #justsaying I digress) – in case you’re wondering, the VR thing has always been in my deck and I have all but intentions to implement it in later phases, IF we can survive till then.

So, the whole SAUCEink project was thought through, not initially but eventually.

In between then, till present day, the project went off track quite a bit. Financially, it was not possible to continuously upkeep and improve something of such mega ambitions. I had to make money, so I started a development firm.

The economy got bad, recovered, and went down again. This downturn pushed me to really focus on SAUCEink again.

I’m sure you might be thinking, are you nuts? A downturn economy and you decide to go into a bleeding venture. Truth is, I’ve saved up a little, and business was really bad. Might as well give it a shot right? In case you’re wondering, what I thought I’ve saved that was enough, wasn’t.

Last year, we got our first angel, it wasn’t much, but at least got us back on our feet again, we were on the verge of just shutting down already. It was heartbreaking, I literally cried.

Life is a biatch, we just have to accept it. From before we officially incorporated, Melissa came onboard, Melissa left (that’s a whole big story on its own), and finally we moved into our new crib we call SAUCEspace. This whole affair was like a roller coaster ride, and I’m talking about worst than Batman.

I love this new crib, a nice shophouse, big enough but not too big. We made a cowork concept so we could get inspired by others and hopefully, inspire people while at it. The whole idea is really to tighten the community. Like a startup version of our one day Google/Facebook campus. (Fyi, even this has a whole story of its own with disappointments inbetween, but we learn and grow.)

So now, coming back to the platform. I never really discussed how the actual platform game to be. So here’s the dirt.

Mobile phones and digital flip-page style magazines (and I emphasis on style cause if it’s like People or anything else, it still can work, though my take would be, a nicely designed responsive web would do the same) are NOT friends. And the decline of tablet users isn’t helping. Flipping an iPad and an iPad Mini is a hell of a difference.

So the model isn’t going to work, it’s about mobility. I’m not making magazines for smurfs after all (they might have their own range of miniature mobile devices too, tsk).

(Just to highlight, I jumped the timeline a bit, and am going backwards again; it’s a little confusing but then again, you’re just reading for the gist of it anyway, not the biography.)

The first version of the platform was by far… unsuccessful. It was more Polyvore then (I’m a big fan of Jess btw). When we got our first angel, my effort of one year was deleted within one week. The problem? The MVP wasn’t viable. Just to clarify, given the limitations, we worked with open source, SAUCEink isn’t a build from scratch, though modular-ly that’s a different story.

When “commercialisation” hit, to some extent it felt like we were going backwards in terms of technology. Right now looking at my product, I feel like I’m three to five years backwards from before. Why? Education is the problem.

Here’s a question, answer honestly. You’ve heard of VR by now, right? Most of us played the AR Pokemon. Do you have a VR device at home? The answer is probably gonna be no. SO WHY DON’T YOU GET ONE? See this is reality and the make-believe reality you think we live in cause of all the “tech news” and what not. Truth is, my mum still know nuts about AR and VR. My sister has no bloody idea what I’m talking about, it sounds like a Robocop movie to her (though I have to add that the little girl that “hacked” the system in Robocop was the inspiration for me to pick up technology).

We are not selling to technology geeks, we’re selling to end users. Thinking ahead is important, being too ahead, means… no sales.

Is Facebook very advanced? It probably is where Mark’s at, but the receiving end, our end, it’s a website and an app. The amazing part is how they scale up their systems to be able to constantly increasing users and add new functionalities without really compromising the speed. I haven’t had the opportunity to face their “problems” but where I’m at right now, the load balancing is already painful to bear with.

So, what’s our MVP? It’s simple, our SAUCEsite is our MVP. It’s the product that allows the community (users) to generate the content  (articles, reactions, likes, comments, reviews) that leads to the commerce (transaction).It’s not complicated for users, just post like how you post on Facebook and earn points interacting with people. The better your content, the more we pay you to create it.

It’s not complicated.

For users, just post like how you post on Facebook and earn points interacting with people. The better quality your content is, the more we pay you to create it.

For merchants, just add a product and sell whatever you’re already selling – be it product or service, as long as there’s a price tag. Is Fiverr not ecommerce? It still is. There’s no restriction what you’re selling, so long you deliver. You can sell writing articles if you like.

That’s the base of it, the rest of the features like auto-sharing to other social media platforms, the appointment booking, the popups… everything else was created to make it easier for you to share content or sell whatever you’re selling. It’s not completely streamless right now, but again, think back really hard, was Facebook streamless at the start? It wasn’t.

Initially we wanted to give users more control over creativity, so we introduced solely drag-and-drop templates for them to create their website/blog/whatever you want to call it. Now, we’ve put in place “presets” – meaning to say templates that are plug-and-play. The more savvy and creative bunch can use the builder to express their creativity – just select the drag-and-drop templates under Appearance > Themes.

This is probably horribly boring to you. But to me, this was my journey. I wanted to jot it down before I start forgetting the emotions I felt about it. Also, to remind myself not to overly look towards immediate revenue but also to remember the end goal direction.

Recently someone asked me about if someone were to acquire us who would it be. By default, we’d look at the tech giants. But in all honesty, I’m disrupting retail, or at least, that’s the aim.

The whole concept of a VR shopping mall is to disrupt retail and advance it. Modern society is about speed. Speed of implementation, speed of everything. We are running out of time. This concept is to allow people to really try on the apparel, experience the product, before purchasing it.

I have my own fashion brand, and we were on Zalora. I loved Zalora, we had constant sales and they did a great job with positioning. It’s “cheap” but not the flea market cheap or… unfortunately, Qoo10. What I hated about it is the returns. It’s crazy.

With our concept, we want to attend the data that keeps people interested in the brand’s products, while at the same time be able to let them “experience it” (virtual and reality are still DIFFERENT) before purchasing. This would significantly reduce the return rates and make logistics less of a nightmare.

People will focus more on quality, understand quality. They buy what they need and truly want.

That is the foundation of SAUCEink.

I really hope this post will be seen to more, one day (if the day arises it means my vision materialised); and help you better understand what’s in my head.

P.S. I’m crediting this to Jose from Cuzzey (I said I would, so I’m doing it) for inspiring me to write this and keep it as a reminder.

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