How Socialwok Won The Attention of TechCrunch, Robert Scoble, And More

26 Jan 2011 in Interviews

Branding advice from Ming Yong, CEO of Socialwok from John Exley on Vimeo.

Welcome back to segment two of my interview with Ming Yong, Founder and CEO of Socialwok; the collaborative social feed built on Google apps.

It was the summer of 2009. The Socialwok founders – based in Singapore – were planning to fly to San Francisco to meet with Google the second week of September. When they discovered that the TechCrunch50 conference was the exact same week, they decided to go for it and applied. But the registration deadline was just three weeks away.

They didn’t get in.

There were nearly 400 applications competing for just 50 spots. Unexpectedly, the team had a moment of fortune: Socialwok was given a last-minute slot in The DemoPit, a crowded showroom floor filled with tables for semi-finalist startups to pitch their companies. Based on a popular vote of the conference attendees, two startups would get the opportunity to present on stage.

What happened next is how Socialwok grabbed the attention of the major influencers in the world of technology.


Credit: TechCrunch

Ming Yong and his team slept for less than 5 hours during the conference, hustling hard to convince anyone who would listen that Socialwok was the real deal. Then it happened. Socialwok won the popular vote. The team took home the DemoPit award and crushed it on stage in front of the entire conference, building their brand and winning the respect of many of their peers.

Afterwards, the pressure was on Ming and his team to take advantage of the infamous TechCrunch Effect. Socialwok’s site shot up from a meager 100 web views to between 3-4,000 web views in the 24 hours following their TechCrunch debut.

While it was difficult to sustain, many of the major tech media sites couldn’t help but take notice and get in touch with Socialwok to cover their product launches. In addition to a host of TechCrunch coverage, they were covered shortly afterward by ReadWriteWeb, Google Enterprise Blogs, and more.


Credit: SGentrepreneurs.

Not long after Socialwok won The DemoPit Award, Ming approached the legend Robert Scoble and asked to show him the product. Scoble liked Socialwok and tweeted about it during Ming’s demo. The team watched as lots of people around the world retweeted Scoble and caused Socialwok’s traffic to once again take off. A few days later Scoble wrote about Socialwok on his blog.

How did they do it?

To quote Ming, “Robert Scoble and co. did not get famous by writing about crap.” Instead, they built an enormous, trusting readership by creating very valuable content. So, build something awesome or forget about getting covered by the likes of Scoble.

But that’s not it. The problem? There’s lots of good stuff for influential bloggers like Scoble to choose from. So, that’s where the importance of relationships comes into play. Ming warns against sending a ‘cold email’ just pitching your startup. Instead, do your best to meet him in person. Ming also advises building genuine relationships with key friends of Scoble and eventually asking for an introduction.

[NOTE: For more advice on building relationships with journalists like Robert Scoble, listen to this classic Mixergy interview with Tim Ferriss.]

Finally, a big hug goes out to Johanna Mortreux for helping me with the video. Also, many thanks to Ming for being The Man and doing the interview with me.

What tips do you have for building relationships with journalists and gaining valuable PR for startups?

  • Kevin Ko

    Very well written, great job John.

    Background noise of the cafe was a bit distracting though :)

  • xeniar

    really like the story, but when filming you really need to get the sounds straight, otherwise it’s just too hard to listen to…

  • JohnExley

    Gracias Xeniar! It’s a motivating story, I was pumped to share it. Not so pumped about the sound quality…running a lean operation of equipment, and certainly chose a poor location.

    Point taken though – thanks for stopping by!

  • JohnExley


    Thank you brother. The idea we were chatting about the other night – definitely writing about that within the next week or two bro.

    Bummed about the sound. You and @Xeniar are absolutely right – it’s quite frustrating. Need to pick better locations, for sure. Perhaps investing in some mic’s wouldn’t be a bad idea.

    Are you familiar with mics/sound? Expensive? Where would you go? Also looking into nabbing a tripod…appreciate recommendations :-)


  • Kevin Ko

    Not too good with that sort of hardware, but your interviews when it’s just a quiet room have been fine, I’d say it’s mostly a location issue

  • JohnExley

    Got ya. Probably continuing a ‘lean operation’ for now. One day, having the equipment of Scoble or Andrew Warner would be really sick. For now, just gotta hustle on nickle and dimes baby!

    Much love Kev thanks again for the help and comments. Let’s connect again mid-Feb.