Ben Huang is the Co-Founder & CTPO at MADU, a startup that has created an Image Recognition Engine that identifies fashion items in celebrity photos and makes these photos instantly shoppable across online & app media.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
It has taken me 9 years to find my calling.
After undergrad, I started working as an electrical engineer for 4 years. I had a change of heart and got into Digital Marketing Analytics after completing a Master in business analytics. Working with data is fun. I believe I’ve become a better thinker, especially for risk and reward. The experiences also allowed me to witness how things work behind the curtains of digital advertising and behavioural targeting.
When COVID hit, I started working on a smart property search platform with two co-founders after experiencing pain points from buying my first home. I was so passionate about the concept that I decided to go full-time, and we launched the product called proppy.com.au. It was a great learning experience for us.
We learnt to appreciate the challenges of building a new digital business, especially in B2C. After consulting with my co-founders and thinking pragmatically, we decided to keep Proppy as a passion project. The website is still live, and we are still getting new users organically. It’s being noticed by search engine gods.
After that, I spent some time at Lexer.io, a high-growth scale-up offering Customer Data Platform (CDP) for data-driven marketers. The team is awesome, and I was lucky to report to the founder Az who has taught me so much. I learnt that marketers are actively seeking new digital marketing practices & solutions to adapt in the new world where 3rd-cookie based targeting is becoming obsolete.
I became obsessed about the problem space & the huge opportunity for a new AdTech solution to address the problem. After doing research, thinking, and chatting with industry experts, I decided to target this opportunity and give a second go at start-up.
So, I joined Antler. I had heard about Antler before. I knew I could meet other people who were ready to take the leap of faith. During the program, I met my cofounder Rick and John who had been working on MADU, a software solution for digital publishers to monetise their images by recognising the fashion products in the photo and creating relevant ad placement for the audience who has been inspired to shop.
We hit it off right away and I decided to join them as the technical co-founder. Fast forward to today, we were successful at the Antler program with investment and now I’m continuing to lead the Product and Technology team as the CTPO.
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
It’s cliché but no one day has been the same. We are diligently following the lean start-up framework to build MADU by constantly talking to people for insights, testing new ideas, learning, and killing or improving.
Below is one of my recent workdays:
- Started the day by checking if John (based in U.S) had anything urgent that needed my input overnight
- Checked my to-do list, updated, and shared with others. (It’s our way to do asynchronous stand-ups)
- Tackled the items in the to-do list:
- Answered some of Balance the Grind interview questions.
- Jumped on an introductory call with two software vendors – I wanted to find a new third-party tool to make one of our operations more efficient. There are some things that’s just worth outsourcing to the experts.
- Met with a seasoned veteran who has been in the digital advertising game for 20 years. We got great advice and insights. I love meeting brilliant people.
- Time to get my hands dirty and code for my assigned component for the next product release.
- Analysed several e-comm platforms for suitability to partner with and shared my views in terms of prioritisation with the team accordingly.
- Rick messaged me for some input about product strategy, so we had a chat and did some Miro board work.
- A few questions were raised by the tech team about building certain product features. I gave my thoughts based on the customer insights to help them work through.
- At 5:30pm, I went to the gym class for an interval training workout.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
I believe sacrifice is inevitable if one wants to build a successful start-up. I’m going all in on Madu.
Work-life balance means I can still spend quality time with close friends and families while working on MADU to get to the next milestone as fast as possible.
Friends and families have been understanding and supportive for my start-up journey, so they have made it easy for me to achieve this goal. Also, the MADU team is very supportive of work-life balance. Personally, I have to give up some hobbies, such as basketball and cycling.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I used to enjoy having 1-2 sneaky drams of single malt whisky as guilty pleasure every now and then. Nowadays, I will just have chamomile tea.
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I used to listen to How I Built This podcast. The stories are very inspiring. These days, I’m more into My First Million (MFM) podcast. It’s entertaining and full of insights and practical advice for people interested in start-up & tech.
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’d say any start-up founder who has just received their Series A round from well-known VCs. I’d like to know if and how the new funding and expectations have changed their work-life balance.
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Super cliché. If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. But this saying hasn’t considered financial security. So hopefully what you love doing has a good financial element. If not, don’t be afraid to explore new paths that can tick the boxes.
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