Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: Applying design thinking to app development in China

China Paradigm interviewed Kevin Yu, the founder, and CEO of SideChef, an interactive step-by-step guided cooking app, to understand how to apply design thinking to app development in China and the US and learn the latest smart kitchen technology in the US.

Kevin Yu, founder, and CEO of SideChef, a three-time TEDx speaker, and a serial tech entrepreneur in China and US

Born and raised in Silicon Valley and having an engineer father, Kevin Yu has demonstrated huge interests in how everything works since a very young age.

Prior to his entrepreneurship in China and the US, Kevin worked in the game industry for over 8 years, primarily as the Global Manager of Community Development at Blizzard Entertainment, a world’s leading gaming company. In 2011, Kevin co-founded Superplay Games, an independent game developer platform.

With his deep understanding of how to engage with customers, in 2013, Kevin dived into his long-time ambition as an app developer in China and the US and founded SideChef, a mobile cooking app in China and the US.

app development in China
[Kevin Yu and SideChef, his popular step-by-step cooking app in China and the US]

Kevin Yu is also a three-time TedX talker and a global keynote speaker both in China and the US.

SideChef: step-by-step cooking app in China and the US makes home cooking easier

In 2013, Kevin Yu created the app SideChef that provides recipes and guided cooking in order to bring smart kitchen technology in the US to the world of the kitchen. It also serves as an online platform where food bloggers and users can share their recipes freely.

smart kitchen technology in the US
[SideChef, a one-stop cooking app in China and the US]

With the detailed photography and written instructions for every single step in a recipe, users can cook with confidence at home or anyplace with an oven.

“All you have to do is to focus on the step by step. Everything else is orchestrated from the recipe itself,” explained Kevin.

Other than the consumer aspect, SideChef also focuses on developing a B2B app marketing strategy in China and the US. It partners with many tech giants, such as GE Appliances, Amazon, Google, etc. to create a one-stop destination for the cooking journey.

SideChef has been named as one of the Best Apps in 2017 by Google Play and ranked among Top 100 Food and Drink App in the Apple App Store in over 100 countries. Six months ago, SideChef finished series A round of funding. Now it has offices both in San Francisco and Shanghai.

What does design thinking mean for app development in China[u1] 

For Kevin, app development in China is not just app design, “It’s a certain way of thinking.”

He believes that while developing an app in China, products themselves are not the focus, but the outcome of design thinking for app development. It is far more important to have a team that is willing to try and learn from failures.

“We are trying to build a company of people who would keep trying in the design thinking for app development of what users need, rather than individual features,” said Kevin.

Driven by this vision, while hiring people, Kevin would focus more on how they deal with challenges and failures, instead of skill sets. The key is to find the right people that exemplify the design thinking for the app in China and make sure everybody shares this core value.

App marketing strategy in China is not the same as in the US

According to Kevin, most of the development team is based in Shanghai, which is also its headquarter and where it was founded. The company opened up its office in San Francisco to further grow the North America market.

In order to successfully market the cooking app in China and US, Kevin uses a lot of user acquisition strategy in the US through the B2B channel. He positions SideChef as “content plus tech” that creates an ecosystem with other smart kitchen technologies in the US. With content that controls the entire kitchen experience, users are able to communicate with all the technology during the process seamlessly. Till now, most of its user acquisition strategy in the US is mainly organic, and only a small portion involves with paid channels.

Having worked both in San Francisco and Shanghai, Kevin understands well the differences between the smart kitchen technology in the US and China. In his opinion, the kitchen players in the US have focused on the kitchen itself for a very long time, while a lot of kitchen brands in Asia are just electronic companies in general and therefore more tech savvy.

“The way they look at technology is different,” said Kevin.

The smart kitchen technology in the US is changing people’s lives

According to Kevin Yu, the most special part of SideChef is that it allows its recipes to connect to its partners in the kitchen and create a harmonious environment where cooking is pleasant and smooth.

Like other industries, the smart kitchen technology in the US and China is evolving fast. Kevin Yu holds great ambitions about shaping the future look of a smart home kitchen.

“There is a lot of change happening in how millennials cook compared to previous generations. The device will change, but I think the cooking journey is still very fragmented. Our job is to bring in all these players into one cohesive cooking app in China and make a future,” said Kevin.


Listen to this episode here:

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