Hiro Tien is Co-Founder and CEO of Viralspace. Before founding Viralspace, he had a decade-long career founding multiple companies in his home country of Brunei. Most notably, he founded the Groupon-equivalent of Brunei, through which he helped hundreds of brands figure out social media. Meet Hiro and learn about the story behind Viralspace:
What was your background before Viralspace?
Before Viralspace, I was attending Stanford Graduate School of Business. Prior to that, I founded the Groupon-equivalent and largest escape room of Brunei in Southeast Asia. Entrepreneurship has always been my passion and interest, I attribute it to my early exposure to the business world as a kid. Growing up, I would take on various part-time jobs every holiday. I was once a tuition teacher, milk-shake maker, supermarket attendant, cinema usher, and a fishmonger before college. These diverse experiences helped shape me into a more empathetic person towards small medium businesses. So when the opportunity to start the group-buying startup of my home country when I was a junior in college, I jumped on it. We ended up helping online shoppers save millions of dollars in discovering great things to see, do and taste in the country.
Why did you start Viralspace?
I started Viralspace to solve my own problem. Thinking back to when I was running my prior startup, we would very subjectively ideate, create and select creative content for marketing. Without really knowing what drives engagement for those content or why exactly they perform, we would put money behind social ads almost blindly.
I was in my dorm at Stanford when the idea of building an engagement prediction engine first came to mind. After taking an AI class by Prof. Andrew Ng at Stanford, I imagined a world in which I could just hand my previous startup (or my mother) a tool that could predict engagement rate so we’d stop asking which photos would perform better on Instagram. Obviously that idea evolved a lot over the past 15 months as we spoke with senior executives (now over 100) at large companies facing similar problems. Today, we’re building the visual intelligence platform for enterprises, starting from marketing.
Above all, I found great people to join me! Apoorva, Michelle, and Jake all had similar passion and excitement levels for Viralspace. As we worked tirelessly over the last year or so, it became clear that there’s nothing we’d rather do other than building out Viralspace for the world.
I started Viralspace to solve my own problem. I imagined a world in which I could just hand my previous startup (or my mother) a tool that could predict engagement rate so we’d stop asking which photos would perform better on Instagram. Today, we’re building the visual intelligence platform for enterprises, starting from marketing.
What do you work on at Viralspace? What have been some of the most exciting/challenging moments?
I primarily focus on the business side of things at Viralspace. That includes sales, business development, fundraising, recruiting, legal, finance among others. My work also covers high level product strategy, go-to-market, and culture/team dynamics. One of the most challenging yet exciting part of the work is building and maintaining relationship with stakeholders. A couple months ago, we knew almost none of most of the people on our list of clients, investors and advisors. Cold outreach and working the network to grow the web of relationships has been my favorite part of my role, although I would get rejected most of the time!
What have you enjoyed about building Viralspace?
It’s been amazing to meet people who believe in Viralspace — sometimes even more than we do! We feel fortunate to have world-class investors supporting us and top brands as our clients — as well as an incredible team that came straight from Stanford research labs, top design firms, and much more. Here are a few moments that have really made this clear to me:
- As we’ve raised our seed round, we’ve had several clients ask if they could invest their own personal money into the startup! This was a huge vote of confidence that they enjoyed using our product.
- We’ve had our advisors and investors open up their entire Rolodex and mass refer us to everyone they know to help us find clients and additional investors.
- The people on our team are incredible, and I see it every day in the way we work together. I think we have a very well put together team with diverse skill sets and personalities. Everyone in the team serve as checks and balances for each other. I cannot imagine being elsewhere besides Viralspace right now.
- Some of the best moments are delivering product to clients, watching them actually use it, and say great things to everyone in their team. There’s nothing more exciting than building something and creating value.
I’m passionate about making a difference (even if it’s a dent in the universe!), meeting and working with great people, and creating value. Viralspace lets me do all of those things.
What do you love to do outside of work?
- Escape rooms, both playing and building them! Especially Sherlock themed ones — that was one of my specialties back in Brunei
- Traveling the world
- Trying to pick up skiing
- Sci-Fi stories by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan
We’re hiring! Want to join Viralspace and work directly with Hiro and other Co-Founders on ML research projects or back-end engineering? Check out our careers page or email email@example.com.