CEOs / Founders / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Henson Tsai, Founder & CEO at SleekFlow

Henson Tsai is the founder & CEO at SleekFlow, an omnichannel social commerce platform that empowers the future of social and commerce.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

Hi there! I’m Henson Tsai, Founder and CEO of SleekFlow. SleekFlow integrates popular messaging channels, e-commerce platforms, CRM software, and payment gateways, such as WhatsApp Business API, Facebook Messenger, Instagram DM, SMS, Telegram, Shopify, HubSpot, and Stripe.

These integrations utilize smart routing and targeted automation campaigns to help businesses track and retain potential sales leads from online and offline avenues. From product discovery to checkout and payment, companies across various industries, primarily e-commerce, retail, and O2O sectors, can tailor their customers’ most accessible and most convenient shopping experience. We process more than 20 million messages monthly and help customers achieve an 18% increase in revenue. 

Founded in 2019 with three founding members, SleekFlow has now expanded to over 60 team members across multiple regions, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brazil and Hong Kong.

We have empowered 5000+ clients from 50+ countries, including MNCs, listed companies, education institutions, government bodies, and many more, to streamline sales, marketing, and support workflows across messaging channels. 

In 2022, SleekFlow secured USD 8M Series A funding led by Tiger Global. SleekFlow is profoundly investing in more fintech products, such as checkout and campaign automation for Instagram shops, TikTok, and live-streaming. We are also investing in building more advanced products, including detailed buyer journey tracking and analytics, which can provide invaluable actionable insights for enterprises. 

A bit more about myself, I graduated from Imperial College London and briefly worked as a banker at HSBC and Ernst & Young Hong Kong to fund my entrepreneurial dreams. Before SleekFlow, I had two unrealized business ideas, a takeaway mobile app, and an all-in-one communication app tailored for hotels.

Neither of them worked out due to intense competition and the wrong target market. However, my experience in failing two startups led me to defining my vision for SleekFlow. We learned to gain industry experts’ insights, understand end users’ points of view, and, most importantly, endure hardship and build resilience.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

I run a customer-centric business, so naturally, I’m leading our company to adopt a people-centric culture. I spent the majority of my day with people. I could be found in a meeting developing a new strategy with my team, gathering industry insights in networking events, or meeting with clients in-person to listen to their feedback and suggestions.

In fact, 80% of our current features are customers’ suggestions! Maintaining a close relationship with my team across different regions (and time zones) is a big part of my day as well.

Sometimes you will find me enjoying our office lunch & learn session, in which my teammates take turns sharing knowledge about their expertise. I am always grateful to work with so many great talents.

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

It’s hard to maintain a work-life balance as a startup founder. Some assume that a founder only needs to give full attention to their business in the early days when we were trying to find our footing as a startup.

However, with growth comes more significant influence and responsibility. My team and I pay a lot of attention to taking care of our clients and ensuring their businesses run as smoothly as possible on our platform. Oftentimes that means work and personal life are quite inseparable. 

Hence, my team and I have been striving to achieve work-life integration. We bring life closer to work – we hold snooker and table tennis games during lunchtime, sing karaoke in the office, and kayak and hike together during summertime.

More than just colleagues, we become close friends and I make sure they feel trusted by giving everyone more autonomy. Everyone in the office can coordinate their own schedules and responsibilities in a way that works well for them.

For example, we offer remote work collaboration tools and flexible telecommuting arrangements to help everyone achieve their personal goals without sacrificing their professional ones.

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4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

SleekFlow has been rapidly growing and flourishing amid a pandemic. Therefore one routine my team and I have started is working from home every now and then. It helps me to stay focused and productive.

I am also delighted to see some of my expat colleagues who opt to work remotely devote more time to family without having to compromise on professional development.

5) Do you have any favorite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

I enjoy listening to podcasts and maintaining a reading habit. Twenty minutes a day could make a real difference. I often read in the morning and share the latest news or industry trends on TechCrunch with the team.

I listen to podcasts —for example, the Marketing School by Neil Patel and Eric Siu. One book I would recommend for those interested in entrepreneurship is High Output Management.

6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Dan Sulivan. I read his book The Gap and The Gain: The High Achievers’ Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success. I like what he wrote about how people can turn seemingly negative experiences into a gain by reframing what happened to us – accepting what happened and finding a creative way to reach the goal. We can take ownership of our happiness by celebrating every little win and planning for future achievements every night.

7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

I want to share a bit more about facing setbacks in work because that would consume your personal life if not handled well. Remember my second unfulfilled business idea? It was a communication app tailored for hotels.

Hospitality C-suite often works overseas and is hard to reach, but I thought doing business was meant to be difficult, and I shall not give up. It was when I joined an international exhibition for startups that I realized the idea wouldn’t work.

There were no inquiries from hotels, while many were from people in the e-commerce and retail sectors. That’s how I came up with the idea of SleekFlow. I realized our all-in-one app was a suitable fit to streamline workflow for the clients-facing industries instead.

For the next few days, I worked with SleekFlow’s two early joiners and made more than 100 cold calls daily to do a primary survey and understand retailers’ needs. Four months later, we got our prototype of SleekFlow using Flutter. Another 2-3 months later, we launched the beta.

Trials and errors are inevitable in a startup business. Surrendering and leaping are not signs of weakness but strength and courage. Yes, risks are always involved when you make a big jump, but you will also open up many possibilities and improve. Trust the process, cheers.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.