How creating the right content can turn a cash-challenged business into a growth machine

An interview with Ryo Chiba, Co-Founder, and CEO of Topic

How creating the right content can turn a cash-challenged business into a growth machine An interview with Ryo Chiba, Co-Founder, and CEO of Topic


This podcast interview focuses on product innovation that has the power to enable creative thinkers and storytellers to create content people actually want to read. My guest is Ryo Chiba, Co-founder, and CEO of Topic.

Ryo started his first business in 2012 at USC. While in college, he co-founded a marketing technology company called TINT which he grew to 40 full-time employees, millions in annual recurring revenue, and 1000+ customers in 172 countries. In 2018 we sold the company to Filestack.

Today he’s working on his next venture, Topic, which he co-founded in 2019.

Their mission: Helping organizations produce better content.

This inspired me, and hence I invited Ryo to my podcast. We explore what’s broken in content creation and how current solutions are obsessed with metrics and creating more content, not content that people want to read and engage with. We also dig into the key learnings Ryo took away from his entrepreneurial journey, why he stopped obsessing about the competition, and what’s required to create a business that can accelerate growth based on word-of-mouth.

Here are some of his quotes:

We were working on a Pinterest clone because social media and visual social media were a big trend at the time. However, we struggled to gain users, pivoted to turn it into a b2b product, and we almost ran out of cash. 

But then, with about two months of runway left, we were looking for some way to create a sustainable business. I’d self-learned SEO and sort of taught myself how to produce content. And we ended up taking that business and growing it and bootstrapping it to around 40 employees and hundreds of customers. And we were able to do that all through our SEO program and the content that we were producing. 

What I found during that journey was that the actual act of scaling up content is extremely challenging, even for highly technical and analytical people. 

So you can imagine how much more difficult it is for people who don’t have that kind of mindset, who are more creative thinkers and storytellers.

During this interview, you will learn four things:

  1. Why building relationships with your competitors can be extremely handy as you evolve your venture
  2. Why being supercritical with yourself on ‘who’s it for’ i.e., which persona to become your ultimate ambassador is critical to securing product-market fit and creating momentum
  3. Why, even if you’re loaded with funding, you should keep a bootstrappers mindset and be disciplined and legitimate about deploying them
  4. How it’s possible to operate in a highly competitive space and still find space to succeed and stand out.

For more information about the guest from this week:

Free Content Tools by Topic