Tai Ko King

Tai Ko King – the Birth and Death of a Singapore Start-up Project

Tai Ko King (TKK) – Vouch’s first experimental side-project.

Not your typical heartbreak, but admittedly, it does kinda sting. Like that one friend whom you thought you were going to conquer the world with but ghosted you and never returned.

This article is written from the perspective of an intern who was hired and instructed to “Treat TKK as your own start-up” on her first week of work.

How it all started

Early February 2018 saw the birth of TKK.

It was during Chinese New Year. The bot started out as a platform for people to ask for “lucky numbers” for their 4D bets. It started out as an experimental project for Vouch.

alt text

Subsequently, the TKK team introduced more elements such as mini-games like Blackjack, In-Between, and even Scissors, Papers, Stone. These games were created to suit the festive season and to onboard our pioneer batch of TKK users. The popularity of the bot soared not long after these minigames were introduced. It was then that the company thought “hey, maybe, just maybe, this bot can just work out as a game bot!”

With that, TKK started looking beyond being just a “Chinese New Year lucky number bot with minigames”.

Research and more research

To be honest, there wasn’t exactly a “research phase” because since the day TKK started, research and experimentation have never stopped. But of course, before the official rebranding and relaunching of TKK, a grueling one week was dedicated to research on what can they transform TKK into and how can they do so.

If you have been to US or are very up-to-date with trends over there, you would probably have heard of HQ, the trivia game show. The TKK team saw the success of this trivia game app in the States and decided to adapt some ideas for our very own TKK Game Show.

First encounter with TKK Gameshow

I remember the first time I actually heard of the TKK Game Show was when a friend of mine, Giam, who eventually became my fellow intern at Vouch, shared about winning cash prizes in a game.

alt text

I did not give the game a shot immediately because I thought, “This sure sounds dodgy…” But as you can see, many of my other friends were really hyped about this game because they actually did win some money from playing this live game show.

Back then, the TKK Game Show was hosted once a week, on every Friday evening.

alt text

Giam continued persuading us to join the gameshow and give it a shot. Eventually, I did, because who wouldn’t want to win some free cash right?

Joining the TKK Team

Not long after I started playing the game, Giam, who was already interning at Vouch, informed me that they were hiring a marketing intern. The news caught my attention immediately since I was already relatively interested in the product – TKK Game Show.

I then applied for the position and started my part-time internship with Vouch in mid-April as it was during the school term.

I remember back then, we had a TKK team meeting every Monday evening. We would sit down and evaluate the game that took place on the previous Friday evening and start coming up with new ideas to improve the game for the upcoming week.

The meeting room was like a blackhole of endless possibilities where every single one of us was just so full of creative ideas for this game show. TKK was like our baby.

As an aspiring entrepreneur, I took TKK to be my first “start-up project”.

The team spent a lot of time looking at other successful trivia games to see how we could possibly model our very own TKK Game Show to be as successful while maintaining a local touch to it.

Evolution of TKK Gameshow

“Change is literally the ONLY constant in the TKK Game Show. “

The game show eventually evolved from a weekly game to a daily live game that ran at 9pm every weekday.

The frequency of the game show was not the only thing that changed along the way. We experimented around with TKK so much that its current form has not an ounce of resemblance to its original concept.

We changed the frequency and timing of both the games and the notifications that went out, we removed and added new game mechanisms every week, experimented around with different prize incentives and so much more. It was almost as if we were launching out a new game every week.

We even tried out many different methods of promotion to expand the reach of our game.

My most memorable one has got to be when the entire team went down to NUS, and paid out $1 to all new users acquired on the spot. It was a pretty interesting experience, especially since so many of my friends were there.

The Death of TKK

After spending 4 months on the TKK Game Show project, we began noticing that the number of new users joining was stagnating, the number of players at each live show started depleting too.

Despite the numerous attempts at introducing new mechanisms and ideas to revive the spiraling numbers, nothing much changed.

Eventually, Vouch decided to put a stop to the project. As of 25th June 2018, the TKK Game Show was put on halt indefinitely.

Potential of a chatbot

TKK Game Show may not have been the wild success we hoped it would be, but the potential that lies within chatbot as a medium has not.

1. Flexibility

The flexibility of a chatbot enables you to engage your users in minigames, voting, viewing of images and videos, and even listening to audios. Chatbots have seen great advances in usability in recent years – we now have UI elements like galleries, “quick replies” that allow users to reduce typing, buttons in text and media messages with the ability to redirect users to other branches of the bot or even other websites, etc.

“…chatbots have become a feasible medium to deliver an application, and will only continue to get better…“

What this means is that chatbots have become a feasible medium to deliver an application, and will only continue to get better.

alt text

2. Convenience and Low Barrier to Entry

alt text

Speaking from experience, it was really super easy to get new users onboard during our outreach campaign in NUS. Since most people are already on these messenger platforms, they are just a click away from joining the TKK Game Show chatbot. There is no need to download an app or key in an unwieldy URL into a browser to access the game, they just needed to send us a message. Building a chatbot is also relatively low cost as compared to having to build an app or website from scratch.

The Experience and Key Takeaways

Both Giam and I are aspiring entrepreneurs who are currently still trying to find our calling. The chance to spearhead this TKK Game Show project really meant the world to us.

It was almost like we were given complete autonomy to run this project – from creating the product, to acquiring new users, to marketing it.

This is the closest we’ve ever gotten to starting our own start-up. Hard skills aside, we’ve really picked up the process of starting and failing in the start-up scene.

These are some of my key takeaways from this project:

1. The consumers may not always know what they want

When Giam and I were trying to market the TKK game show to people our age, we did a lot of research and went around getting feedback from players of our demographic. However, when it all ended, we found that despite us working on the feedback we gathered, these people still dropped out of our game. We came to realize that sometimes, the users themselves may not know exactly what they want, and its up to us to tease it out from the information they provide.

2. Do not commit to a mistake just because you made it from the start

Initially, we felt that University students were the most accessible group that we can penetrate. As such, we decided that they would be our target audience. We later realized that the bulk of our regular players and/or supporters are actually middle-aged working adults. If only we did not overcommit ourselves to the initial target audience and steered our strategies toward the direction of these working adults, maybe TKK would have found more traction.

3. Never be afraid to try

If there is one thing I think we did right despite everything else, it would be that we were brave enough to try new things. As individuals with creativity bursting at the seams, we really gave the TKK Game Show our best shot, generating new ideas and executing them.

Although it has come to an end, my journey with Vouch and the TKK Game Show is truly an enriching and insightful one. All these lessons we’ve learned from this project, I hope we can remember and put them into good use when executing our next idea.